- Patrick Smith/Getty
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors blew out their opponents in anticipated matchups Wednesday night, proving what many people already expected about this NBA season – it’s a two-horse league.
Playing the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively, on national TV, the Cavs and Warriors beat their opponents by a combined 49 points.
In doing so, both teams appeared to send a message to the rest of the NBA – nobody else is even close to them.
Coming into the game, the Knicks had been playing well, winning four in a row and seven of their last nine. At 12-9, they’re not threats to the Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference supremacy, but the NBA world was intrigued by how a seemingly competitive playoff team with a big-name roster would match up against the Cavs.
Granted, the Knicks were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, having flown overnight from a win in Miami the night before. Still, the game was over in the opening quarter, as the Cavaliers lit up the Knicks defense, which ranks among the worst in the NBA.
By the fourth quarter, with the Cavaliers leading by over 30 points in the final minute, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and company were playing the water-bottle challenge.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December8, 2016
Safe to say the Knicks didn’t hold the Cavs’ attention for long.
Meanwhile, the Clippers-Warriors matchup was the main attraction of the night. Rivals over the last few seasons, though the Warriors have decidedly had the upper hand, the Clippers raced out to the hottest start in the NBA this year and owned the league’s best defense coming into the game. Perhaps the biggest threat in the Western Conference to the Warriors, the Clippers could make a statement with a win over the reigning conference champions.
Instead, over the first 36 minutes of the game, the Warriors methodically carved up the Clippers, looking every bit like the offensive juggernaut people expected them to be this year.
Amazingly, none of the Warriors’ Big Four played all that well, with no player scoring over 25 points. Kevin Durant, in particular, had an inefficient night, scoring 16 points on 17 field goal attempts. It didn’t matter. The Warriors’ defense often suffocated the Clippers, and in turn, fed off of turnovers, racing down court and moving the ball with precision to get easy open looks.
For a team that’s played together for just 22 games this season, this chemistry is scary.
That was Durant’s first and only made three-pointer of the night, and the Warriors were already beating the Clippers by 24.
Watching the Cavs and Warriors dismantle potential threats only helped confirm what many people feel is inevitable come June – Cavs-Warriors Round III.
No other team in either conference can truly match up with these two. Not the Toronto Raptors in the East, who the Cavs beat in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and again last week. Not the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose best player, you know, joined the Warriors this summer. Not the Spurs, who, despite beating the Warriors opening night, do not match up well and have some concerning habits, such as routinely falling behind by double-digits. And as evidenced Wednesday night, not the Knicks or Clippers.
Things can obviously change – a single regular-season matchup doesn’t necessarily predict future outcomes (though it should be noted the Cavs have now twice blown out the Knicks this season). But barring an unexpected trade, injury, or unforeseen development, it’s hard to imagine any other two teams meeting in the Finals this spring.