The Golden State Warriors had a merry Christmas indeed, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-92 Monday in a rematch of the last three NBA Finals and doing so without injured star guard Steph Curry. It was a close one throughout, and the Cavs’ LeBron James tied it at 92 inside the final two minutes, but the Warriors then pulled away. Kevin Durant missed a long three-pointer, but Jordan Bell grabbed the offensive rebound, and then Draymond Green set up Klay Thompson for another go-ahead three to put Golden State up 95-92.
On the next possession, James turned the ball over and the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala missed a three-pointer, but Green grabbed the offensive rebound. Bell tried a late-in-clock three-pointer and missed it, but that still took time off the clock, and Durant then shut down James’ drive to the hoop. (He should perhaps have been called for a foul, but no call was forthcoming.) Thompson then made two free throws, Bell blocked a three-point attempt from Kevin Love and a foul led to two more Thompson free throws to seal the deal.
Overall, the Warriors got great performances from Green (12 points and 12 rebounds), Durant (25 points, seven rebounds, five blocks), Thompson (24 points and seven rebounds) and Bell (eight points and six rebounds in 26 minutes). Iguodala also shone off the bench, contributing nine points, six rebounds and solid defense throughout in his 24 minutes. Cleveland received strong showings from Love (a game-high 31 points and 18 rebounds) and James (20 points, six rebounds and six assists), but it wasn’t enough. Golden State outshot them (making 46.3 per cent from the field to 31.8 per cent), came up with eight blocks to none, and did enough to hang in there despite an atypical lack of three point shooting success (they only made 10 of 37 from deep, 27 per cent, versus Cleveland’s 15 of 36, 41.7 per cent).
The loss meant that the Cavaliers dropped to 24-10, third in the Eastern Conference, while the Warriors improved to 27-7, second in the Western Conference. There’s still a long way to go, of course, but many have been projecting these teams to meet in the NBA Finals for a fourth-straight season. And Monday’s match suggests that could again be a great contest. The Warriors in particular can take a lot of optimism from this one, especially considering that they came away with the win without Curry. And they primarily have Green, Durant, Thompson and Bell to thank for that.