OAKLAND, California (AP) Now, everybody can sit back for a few months and envision the possibility of another scintillating NBA Finals between Cleveland and Golden State.
LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry for the third straight time, complete with the hard-nosed play of Draymond Green, dazzling dunks from Kevin Durant and sharp shooting from Kyrie Irving.
This regular-season round went to the Warriors, who dominated from the start on Monday – and it wasn’t even close. The defending champs were dismantled on the very floor where they captured the franchise’s first title last June.
Curry and his superstar supporting cast certainly looked ready to trade more postseason blows with Cleveland. The two-time reigning MVP hit five 3-pointers on the way to 20 points while matching his season best with 11 assists in Golden State’s 126-91 rout of the Cavaliers.
”This is high-quality basketball, at its highest level,” Curry said. ”These are the kinds of atmospheres that you live for. Whether you win or lose, regular season, playoffs, whatever, that you can play in that kind of environment that’s always fun.”
Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five 3s, and Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. He also equaled his career best with five blocks – and had another confrontation with King James in the process.
James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds. But he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship again turned testy.
”I don’t think it’s a rivalry,” James reiterated. ”It’s two great teams that have aspirations. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a rivalry in the NBA.”
Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas.
Irving – who hit game-winners against Golden State in the past two matchups, including the championship clincher – scored 17 points on an uncharacteristic day for the Cavs when they committed 15 turnovers to 11 assists.
”They did what they were supposed to do,” Irving said. ”Right from the start they jumped on us and never looked back.”
The latest altercation between Green and James came with 6:55 left in the first half. Golden State led 52-35 when James collided with Green near midcourt, resulting in a flagrant 1 foul on Golden State’s emotional All-Star. Green’s arm extended across the upper body of James, who went down hard and lay on the court. Green reacted by appearing to mock James for flopping.
With this one in the books, these teams are done with each other – for the time being.
”It’s intense enough for two matchups,” Green said. ”If you want to play each other again, try to get to the NBA Finals. The fact you only play twice a year makes it even more exciting because you only have two cracks at it.”