The Cavaliers came into Golden State short handed in the frontcourt as rookie Tyler Zeller is out indefinitely after taking an elbow to the cheek. And to make it worse, Anderson Varejao was a late scratch with a right knee contusion; great, here starts the Varejao injuries. With Varejao and Zeller out, head coach Byron Scott inserted Samardo Samuels in the starting lineup.
A lackadaisical first quarter by the Cavs led them to an early deficit trailing 37-21 after the first quarter. The Warriors were playing their style of basketball, and the Cavs couldn’t stop them. They were able to force turnovers – leading them to fast break points, something the Cavs have struggled with this season. The Warriors were able to get the Cavs to turn the ball over 10 times in the first half. Stephen Curry led Golden State with 15 points in the first quarter.
As the second quarter began, Daniel Gibson took advantage of his time on the court and sparked the Cavaliers offense when he sent a behind the basket alley-oop to a trailing Tristan Thompson. That was all Kyrie Irving needed to get going to lead a late quarter surge and cut the Warriors lead down to 59-51 at half.
You can tell coming out of halftime Coach Scott wanted the pressure on defense to pick up, and it sure did. They put pressure on the Golden State guards, who out played the Cavs backcourt in the first half, and forced turnovers. They cut into the Warriors lead when Dion Waiters hit a turn-around fade away jumper making it 69-67 with 6:30 remaining in the third.
After that, the Cavs never led again and eventually fell to the Warriors 106-96.
You saw the Cavaliers’ defensive pressure start to diminish and the Warriors start to get easy buckets like they did in the first quarter.
It was obvious that the Cavaliers missed Varejao’s presence tonight. Not saying Samuels didn’t play well, but the combination of Samuels, Thompson and Jon Leuer had trouble defending the Warriors’ big men. They surrendered 22 points to David Lee and 19 to Carl Landry, who came off the bench.
An interesting stat in tonight’s game is how Coach Scott distributed the minutes to his players. With two big men out, you expected his frontcourt rotation to shorten up. Leuer, who hadn’t record any minutes other than six in the Chicago blowout, played a total of 22 tonight. Samuels started his first game of the year and showed how great of shape he was in by leading the team in minutes with 38.
The Cavaliers continued to struggle from the free-throw line, large part due to Thompson who went 3-8 from the charity strike. As a team, they shot their season average of 62 percent, while Golden State shot 74 percent from the line.
The team will have a day off and will next travel to Phoenix to take on the Suns. Tipoff is scheduled for Friday, 9:00 p.m. at US Airways Center.