Relax, Warriors Nation. One loss is not the end of the world, nor the NBA Finals, in this case. I still believe that the Warriors are a better team than the Cleveland Cavaliers. There's no better time to show it than in Game 3 tonight.
The Warriors played poorly on Sunday, when league Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry had his worst shooting game of the season. And they lost by two points in overtime. Don't worry. At least not yet. The Warriors face a tough challenge in Cleveland, but one road win will get them the home court advantage again.
Don't worry about Curry, either. Every star player has a game like he had in Game 2. Steph is too good a shooter to worry about him being in a slump.
When I struggled with my shot, I asked my teammate Jeff Mullins to take a look at it and tell me what he thought I might be doing wrong. If Steph feels that there is something wrong with his mechanics, I suggest he ask backcourt partner Klay Thompson to watch him shoot and point out anything that may be awry. I like to think it was just one of those days that volume shooters have every so often.
The defeat was almost a carbon copy of the two losses to the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round. In both of them, the Warriors shot poorly from the field and 3-point land, exhibited sporadic defensive effort, played too much one-on-one offense and turned the ball over excessively. In the Game 2 loss to Cleveland, their shooting was even worse from both areas, turnovers were rampant and the ball movement was lacking on offense.
The Dubs' defense was outstanding, however, except for the middle part of the first quarter where they squandered an eight-point lead. That stretch coincided with Thompson being on the bench with two early fouls.
The Warriors can overcome ineffectiveness in two of these three areas — shooting poorly, turning the ball over and too much one-on-one — and still win games as long as they stay focused on defense. But when the team struggles in these areas and fails to play tough D, it is beatable against any team in the league, but especially a good one like Cleveland with a great player like LeBron James.
I am so impressed with James and his will to win. The entire Cleveland team has adopted his attitude and shown tremendous toughness, heart and determination.
One other concern for me was the fact that the Cleveland bench outscored the Warriors' bench, 21-17. Normally, the reserves for the Warriors are the ones providing an edge in scoring. This time the bench shot made half its shots in the field but took only 14 of them. In Game 1, they shot 52 percent, took 27 shots and accounted for 34 points. This stellar group needs to be more aggressive offensively, especially when the starters are struggling.
Throughout these playoffs, the Warriors have played only one complete game on both ends of the court. That was the 115-80 blowout of the Houston Rockets in Game 3 on the road. A similar performance would allow them take the lead in the series and perhaps set the tone for the rest of it.
Rick Barry played eight seasons for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in The San Francisco Examiner throughout the playoffs.