The Golden State Warriors needed Monday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers far more than their opponent. That is the nature of the beast when considering one team owned a four-game winning streak, including an infamous 3-1 comeback against the other. What actually transpired was far more than one team simply trying harder than the other on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Oakland. The Warriors, in one dominant 24-minute swoop, sent a message to both the NBA and the Cavaliers that no team can match their ceiling when everything is going right.
This is, of course, not a stretch in and of itself. After all, the Warriors employ four of the NBA’s top-20 players and, frankly, the roster is an embarrassment of riches. Still, Golden State has faced a great deal of skepticism for a team that now sits with a 35-6 record and the lion’s share of that doubt stems from recent performance against their chief challenger from the Eastern Conference. There have been whispers of in-fighting between the team’s top players, questions about the sacrifice of depth in favor of star power and even open inquiries about how Golden State’s late-game offense should function.
On this particular evening, none of that mattered in the slightest.
The Warriors put together an utterly dominant performance in a 126-91 victory, to the point where the entire second half was simply the equivalent of exhibition play. Golden State finished the evening with an impressive 51 percent clip from the floor with 15 of 34 (44 percent) from three-point range and, for good measure, the team added 37 assists. Individually, Draymond Green submitted a triple-double (11 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, five blocks), Stephen Curry was quite good (20 points, 11 assists, four steals), Kevin Durant may have been the best player on the court and Klay Thompson filled it up (26 points).
Somehow, though, those full-game numbers don’t tell the story with quite as much force of will as the team’s performance when the contest was still in doubt in the first half.