What did the Warriors win over the Cavs mean?


The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers by 35 points on MLK Day. They split the season series, but what did this game mean?

Almost a year after the Golden State Warriors traveled to Cleveland to hand them a 34 point loss, they did it again. The Dubs hosted the Cavaliers for the first time since that heartbreaking Game 7 last June and they made sure they left with a victory. And it was a big one, blowing their rivals out of the gym by 35 points.

It was a masterful performance as Golden State dominated on both ends. They didn’t allow the Cavs’ stars to have any breathing room offensively and they attacked every weak link defensively. Steph Curry redeemed himself after his poor Christmas Day performance.

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The Warriors evened the season series up, with both home teams protecting their court. Kyrie Irving lifted the Cavaliers to victory with his game-winning turnaround jumpshot. The MLK Day rematch wasn’t as close.

Kevin Durant’s Warriors gave us what we expected when he announced his decision to join Golden State. It was a blowout from the opening tip. So what does this game mean?

Somehow, nothing and everything. It’s always good to get a win, especially against a top team. With the San Antonio Spurs right behind them, the Warriors can’t just assume they have the first seed locked up.

The Warriors hope to be playing in June and, if they are, they’ll most likely be going up against the Cavaliers. In the NBA Finals, the result in a January game doesn’t mean much. Neither does a game in December.

So, in that sense, this game meant nothing. Golden State defeated Cleveland two times during the 2015-16 regular season and dropped three games in a row, including a Game 7 at home. The regular season results mean nothing.

What’s important, however, is #TheProcess. There are valuable takeaways that can carry over into the late spring and summer. So, in that sense, this game does have meaning.

Curry has had some recent struggles against the Cavaliers. Cleveland has been physical with him, choosing to face guard him at all times, making it difficult for the two-time MVP to get the ball. The Warriors hadn’t been able to get Curry involved until last night.

Steve Kerr allowed his point guard to actually be a point guard. He put the ball in Curry’s hands and it paid off. He got into an early rhythm and the Warriors were flowing. Golden State is better when he’s running the show.

Curry was aggressive early, something we hadn’t seen him do against the Cavaliers much. It worked. Moving forward, Kerr needs to trust his point guard more and let him start things.

Golden State likes to run their sets, regardless of opponent. Sometimes, Kerr and his staff are stubborn to a fault. They overcomplicate things when simplifying is the answer.

The Cavaliers have a lot of poor defenders. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye aren’t big-time NBA players because of their defensive prowess. In a team concept, they can manage, but individually they can’t hang with Golden State’s offensive firepower.

The Warriors finally exploited that. Irving can no longer hide on Harrison Barnes after switching a pick-and-roll; he has to deal with Durant. And Golden State exploited it. Just like they did Korver, making him seem nearly unplayable.

Lastly, it’s never easy to lose four in a row to ANY team, let alone your rival (sorry, LeBron). The regular season win column won’t mean much in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but psychologically, it was imperative that they win. Golden State is more talented than Cleveland, but they’re less cohesive. While it’s always been clear the Warriors could beat them, it’s nice for Durant to get that first one.

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The Cavaliers beat the Warriors by one point on Christmas. That game’s result didn’t mean much either. But Golden State’s failure to execute down the stretch was eye-opening.

I don’t believe regular season doesn’t matter. The fact that a 73 win team didn’t win a title is an anomaly, not the norm. You can lean a lot from the regular season.

The playoffs are what matter the most, but you can’t prepare for them without the regular season. The Warriors and the Cavaliers don’t really care who won or who lost these games, but rather how  and why they won or lost.