Durant gets personal with stuffing of LeBron, stops any momentum for Cavs

Durant gets personal with stuffing of LeBron, stops any momentum for Cavs

OAKLAND -- There was a single play Monday night that delighted Warriors fans more than any other in a 126-91 win over the Cavaliers, and it was not any of five 3-point bombs dropped by Oracle Arena favorite Stephen Curry.

Nor was it the high-velocity collision between Draymond Green and LeBron James, which resulted in Green being assessed with a Flagrant Foul 1 and the Warriors cranking up their intensity to another level.

No, the most satisfying play of all was on defense, and it was made by offensive wizard Kevin Durant, who sent a resounding message to the Cavaliers and, moreover, to James, Cleveland’s superstar forward.

With 9:48 left in the third quarter and James driving in for a dunk, Durant responded by rising up and cleanly stuffing the shot, sending James sprawling helplessly to the floor as the Warriors gained possession and raced the other way.

“That block at the rim was definitely great,” Draymond Green said. “If LeBron dunks on him right there, the momentum swings, he’s excited and everything can possibly swing. Yeah, he made a stand. Got a big block for us and we got off to the races. That puts momentum completely in our favor.”

With the crowd pumping up the volume, the Warriors, already in control, finished the job. And don’t think Durant isn’t aware of the effect such a play has.

“Yeah, especially when you’re at home, when you get a block against anybody, the crowd is into the game and they really enjoy that,” he said. “Around the league now, in every arena, fans are starting to respect defense. They can sense that it’s a momentum shift when you get a big block or a huge steal or a block.”

It also put momentum, on a personal level, in Durant’s favor. Despite the fact that Curry has won the last two MVP awards, it’s widely believed that James and Durant are the top two players in the NBA.

James has three championship rings, while Durant has none. James has four MVP awards, to one for Durant. When the two met in the 2012 NBA Finals, when Durant was with the Thunder and James with the Heat, Miami won in five games.

Durant, who entered the league four years after James, is at the point in his career that he believes he’s ready for anything James may have. Furthermore, since coming to the Warriors last summer, Durant clearly embraces the opportunity to beat James.

Durant posted 36 points and 15 rebounds when the teams met in Cleveland on Christmas Day, and posted 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals on Monday. KD, on an individual basis, is now 2-0 this season against LeBron.

“Guarding one of the best players in the league, and somebody that can score in different ways and impact the game from different ways, whether it’s in transition or the pick-and-roll or (isolation), I just tried to stay locked in and relied on my teammates,” Durant said.

Warriors send strong statement, show where they stand in rivalry with Cavs

Warriors send strong statement, show where they stand in rivalry with Cavs

As a statement in rebuttal to Christmas Day, the Golden State Warriors told the Cleveland Cavaliers, “See you back here on June 1.”
 
And they stated it with authority, for all the good it will matter come June.

Monday’s 126-91 dope-slapping of the Cavs, replete though it might have been with DrayBron Round 3, serves only as a talking point for Joe Lacob at Tuesday’s new arena groundbreaking ceremony and as a game for everyone to forget when these two teams next meet, mostly likely in the NBA Finals for a nearly unprecedented third consecutive time. 
 
The last time it has happened in any professional sport, since you didn't ask, was 1952-54 with the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Richard Jefferson was born shortly thereafter.
 
Long-term, though, Monday’s curb-stomping has little carryover value. The Warriors have stomped the Cavs and been stomped by them since this series became must-see entertainment two years ago – yes, even against the cultural degradation of The Bachelor. They all serve as prelude to the next game, no matter how long the wait.

But the search for statements never ends, and if there was one, it was that when fully engaged on defense and in transition, the Warriors are downright evil.
 
Or, to steal the phrase off Steve Kerr’s chest, “SPIRITUAL GANGSTERS,” which we presume is T-shirt for “Find the path of eternal peace and contentment or I’ll put a cap in your hinder.”
 
The most demonstrative Warrior of all was Draymond Green, whose triple double (11/13/11) was more than enhanced by his plus-43 (tying a career high) and highlighted by his professional foul on a breaking James midway through the second quarter. Green cut off his path to the basket shoulder first, dropping James like wet laundry and causing great anger and consternation among the customers. Green was called for a flagrant foul (category 1: no evacuation needed) and a technical foul, but exempting the view of James laying face-down on the floor that created exaggerated cries of felony flopping, the decision was just.
 
“I fouled him to stop the break,” Green said impishly, “and he went down. The aftermath – I told RJ to get out of my face. It was just in the heat of the moment, I think . . . having some fun, nothing dangerous.”
 
“It was definitely a hard foul,” Klay Thompson affirmed. “I think anyone would have gone down if Draymond’s running at you that fast fouling you like that. It was a good hard foul. He probably warranted a Flagrant 1.”
 
Well, if you’re into message-sending and all that, sure, but the messaging had been delivered by then. The Cavs may have been coming off three days’ rest on the West Coast and at the end of a road trip, but that doesn’t explain a 35-point beatdown. Each of of the Warriors starters – Green, Thompson, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Zaza Pachulia – plainly outplayed their Cleveland counterparts – James, Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love – and the Warrior bench was far better than Cleveland’s.
 
In short, 126-91 was an accurate representation of the evening. A very accurate representation indeed.
 
“We wanted to win,” said the Spiritual Gangster Kerr. “We weren’t happy with our Cleveland game on Christmas Day, and any time you are facing a team that you know is one of the best in the league, you are going to be up for it. We were definitely up for it. You could tell we had a lot of good energy and played a really good game.”
 
Gangster understates his position here, as the entire game was WATB – Warriors At Their Best. They burst from the anthem quickly, put a foot on the Cavaliers before they could make the game interesting and kept it there throughout. While some folks wanted to make the Green-James collision the linchpin of the result (and it did energize the torqued-up crowd), the Warriors were already ahead, 52-35, and the Cavs never got within 14. By the half, they were down 29 and stayed there.
 
To further accentuate the energy the Warriors brought to their task of redressing the pregame narrative of a 34-6 team wracked with doubts, they outrebounded Cleveland, 58-35, allowing the Cavs only seven offensive rebounds on 57 misses. They had 10 steals and 11 blocks, and outscored the Cavs 37-13 on fastbreak points. And while the Cavs were hammered comprehensively from the top of the roster down, James’ minus-32 is the second worst of his entire career, playoffs included.
 
In short, the Warriors view this as a very real rivalry no matter what James may say in his passive-aggressive moments, and they had a run of losses and the mockery of a nation with which to deal.
 
“Oh, it’s definitely a rivalry,” Green said with that smile he uses to break people’s wills. “Just me, though. I don’t know about anyone else. But it’s definitely fun.”
 
Nor, frankly, does he care much, as you may have gathered in your time paying attention to him.
 
Besides, it’s a long time until June 1, and there are miles for both teams to walk before that happens, if it happens at all.
 
And yes, please let it happen.

Instant Replay: Warriors end drought vs Cavs in dominant fashion

Instant Replay: Warriors end drought vs Cavs in dominant fashion

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- The Warriors got a measure of revenge Monday, and it wasn’t enough to simply beat the Cleveland Cavaliers.

No, they annihilated the Cavs, rolling to a tip-to-buzzer 126-91 victory before a roaring sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

Six Warriors scored in double figures, with Klay Thompson putting in 26 points to lead the way. Kevin Durant tossed in 21 points, Stephen Curry 20, Andre Iguodala a season-high 14, Shaun Livingston a season-high 13, and Draymond Green added 11.

The Warriors (35-6), who took a 109-108 loss to the Cavs on Christmas Day in Cleveland, evened the season series at one game apiece and snapped a four-game losing streak to the Cavs, dating back to Game 5 of the NBA Finals last June.

The Warriors committed 15 turnovers, but held Cleveland to seven points off the giveaways. Moreover, the Warriors clobbered the brawny Cavs on the glass, outrebounding them 58-35.

LeBron James scored 20 points to lead the Cavaliers (29-11), who were limited to 35.2-percent shooting from the field.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

On a night when most everybody was magnificent, special mention goes to Green for his spirit, his statistics and also his ability to knock James off his game.

Green posted his third triple-double of the season. His line: 11 points (4-of-6 shooting from the field, 3-of-4 from the line, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and a career-high-tying five blocks). He played 35 minutes and finished plus-43.

TURNING POINT

After Cleveland got within five at 19-14 with 4:41 remaining in the first quarter, the Warriors responded with a 23-8 run to go up 42-22 with 11:17 left in the second quarter.

The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 41-27 in the first half and took a 78-49 lead at intermission.

The Cavs got no closer than 22 (99-77, 10:06 remaining) in the second half.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: No injuries were listed and none was reported.

Cavaliers: G J.R. Smith (R thumb fracture) and F/C Chris Andersen (R ACL surgery) were listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors return to action Wednesday night, when they face the Oklahoma City Thunder at Oracle Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30.