Cleveland Cavaliers v Golden State Warriors

Warriors rediscover offensive balance, leave Cavs searching for answers

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Warriors guard Stephen Curry and center JaVale McGee (Getty Images)

Eight seconds into Game 2 at Oracle Arena on Sunday, center JaVale McGee - inserted into the starting five by coach Steve Kerr to get more offense going - ran a high curl as Stephen Curry initiated the offense. Cavs center Kevin Love switched onto Curry, and guard JR Smith made a half-hearted switch onto McGee. Curry, seeing that Smith had gotten himself turned around, zipped a pass to McGee, who caught it four feet behind Smith and had an easy dunk.

About 30 seconds later, Warriors forward Kevin Durant had the ball on the right wing, after the Cavs had already done a Love-Smith switch, with Smith again on McGee. Durant made a move to the basket, and when Smith came out to help, Durant knocked a bounce pass to McGee, who had no Cavalier within six feet of him. Another dunk.

The score was 4-0, but it already felt like this would be a particularly potent night for the Warriors offense. Indeed, when the game was over, they'd scored 122 points on 57.3 percent shooting, never trailing in the win.

"We played really well tonight," Kerr said. "There were a few things that bothered us in the second half, a few defensive breakdowns we'll take a look at on film. But overall it was a really good, balanced game, good defense, good, intense defense and excellent offense. So, yeah, we're happy with the way we played."

That's an understatement. In Game 2, the Warriors had their best postseason shooting performance under Kerr, and their best since April 2013, a span of 97 games. What was most remarkable was how little defensive resistance the Cavs presented.

As a result, the Warriors were able to put forth an analytics adherent's dream game - one with layups or dunks constituting 32.9 percent of the shots attempts, and 43.9 percent of them coming as 3-point tries.

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Here's how the Warriors' shots broke down:

Shot Type Makes Attempts
Dunks 10 10
Layups 10 17
Paint 5 8
Midrange 7 11
3-pointers 15 36

The Warriors took just 11 midrange 2-pointers, the shot that is the scourge of modern NBA offense. But they made seven of them.

That's the fewest midrange shots the Warriors have attempted in the postseason. They had been averaging 21.8 of those shots per game prior to the Finals, and they shot 18 of them in Game 1. But taking just 11 such attempts shows how easy it was for the Warriors to get to the spots they prefer-the 3-point line and the rim.

The defensive deficiencies that plagued the Cavs all year were partly to blame, but credit the Warriors with putting Cleveland on its heels from the get-go, and not letting up. The Warriors, who average 5.5 dunks in the regular season and playoffs, had 10 dunks in the game, including five in the first quarter. McGee had five dunks himself.

The 17 layup attempts were also emblematic of the Warriors' attacking strategy, and their numbers would have been even better if Curry (who set a Finals record with nine made 3-pointers) had not gone just 2-for-6 on his layup attempts. That's an anomaly for Curry, who is shooting 76.1 percent at the rim in the playoffs, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

In other words, it could have been worse for the hapless Cavs defense going against a Warriors offense that, after showing some struggles against the Rockets in the conference finals, has become a juggernaut once again. That was evident from the opening seconds of Game 2.

The Warriors can be slowed, as we have seen at different times in the postseason. But in the early going of this series, it's difficult to see how this Cavs team will do that.

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