Everything was as it should have been.
Halfway through the first quarter, the Golden State Warriors had blown open a 16-point lead against the lowly Cavaliers, non-playoff fodder in the terrible Eastern Conference. The defense was swarming, and the ever-frustrating offense was finding easy baskets in transition. The Warriors, following an acceptable loss to the Clippers, appeared ready to return to the recent winning ways.
The lead, however, was not to last. The Cavaliers bench swamped the recently improved Warriors second unit, the harassing perimeter defense destroying every semblance of offensive flow.
The bench lost the big lead, but the starters lost the game. Through the second and third quarters, the Cavaliers outplayed the Warriors better lineups, slowly, sporadically building a lead before finishing the third quarter on a 20-7 run. Facing a 13-point fourth quarter deficit, the Warriors put little pressure on Cleveland, which staved off a few unimpressive Warrior runs.
The result of this game, a loss to Cleveland in the midst of the heated playoff chase, looks bad. But, as far as losses go, this was not overly worrisome. Cleveland, a very poor shooting team, hit a disproportionate amount midrange jumpers and scored on a few unexpected turnovers. The turnovers are a long-term issue, but losing to a team that is forced to rely on the midrange is a much more desirable process than beating a team that shoots poorly but is given better opportunities.
The Warriors defense was criticized after the loss, and, while it was by no means good, it did not display significant, repeated flaws. The apparent lack of effort was disconcerting, but over an 82-game season, lulls are to be expected. On offense, the same issues that have haunted the Warriors all season – ill-advised isos, post ups, and turnovers, were glaringly present. However, the Warriors attempted 29 three-point attempts, an encouraging and often lacking commitment to one of the team’s strengths.