After a big win on Monday night in Los Angeles, the Cleveland Cavaliers continued their west-coast road trip, traveling to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, two of the Cavaliers' key contributors from their previous win were missing the game, with Anderson Varejao, who is leading the league in rebounding, and Tyler Zeller, who scored the most points of his young career the other night, both out of action for this game with injuries. Also, Kyrie Irving admitted to feeling under the weather after the game.
It was not a clean bill of health for the Warriors, though, as their star power forward, David Lee, and backup point guard Jarrett Jack, were both suffering from flu-like symptoms. Earlier in the day, Lee thought it was unlikely he would play, due to how poor he felt, but both of Golden State's players were able to suit up, and both had an impact on the game.
The lack of big men was evident for Cleveland, as they were outscored 48-30 in the paint and outrebounded 44-39, in route to a 106-96 loss. While the presence of Varejao and Zeller would not have guaranteed the Cavaliers would have been more successful in these categories, it likely would have made things more difficult for the Warriors down low.
It was a slow start for Cleveland, who trailed 37-21 at the end of the first quarter, but the team, again, showed the remarkable resiliency for such a young group (especially without Varejao as a veteran leader), as they battled back to trail by just eight points at halftime. The Cavaliers, in fact, took the lead late in the third quarter, 70-68, but the lack of depth on the night began to wear on them, as Golden State went on 17-4 run to close out the period.
Despite feeling sick, Irving was his usual self, scoring 28 points, with seven assists and six rebounds. Dion Waiters had a decent night, just a few days after a career night, with 12 points and five assists. Daniel Gibson also contributed 12 points off the bench, but Cleveland was unable to find a second big scorer, other than Irving, to help put them over the edge. Tristan Thompson and Samardo Samuels, who was starting in place of Varejao, both scored 11 points and combined for 17 rebounds, just two more than Varejao's season average.
The Warriors' guard Stephen Curry was coming off a horrendous night against the Sacramento Kings, but exploited the Cavaliers', and Irving's, weakness of defending explosive guards. The youngster scored 21 points, had six assists, five rebounds, and two steals for an all-around good night. Despite being sick, Lee showed up for the game, taking advantage of Cleveland being undersized, finishing with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Rookie Harrison Barnes had 14 points, including a big three-pointer late in the game to help seal the win, and Klay Thompson added 13. Jack, despite his ailment, came off the bench to score 10 points and dish out five assists.
While it cannot be said how the Cavaliers would have faired if they were at full strength, this loss does continue to point out some of the deficiencies of this team. The injury problem will likely emerge again throughout the season (though hopefully not for extended time), and the lack of depth at almost every position is a problem. Also, Cleveland must focus on slowing down opposing guards. While guys like Curry, Chris Paul, and Brandon Jennings, all whom have done well against the Cavaliers this year, are very talented, there needs to be focus on how to at least limiting these players some, or making them work harder for their stats.
The loss drops Cleveland to 2-3 on the season, 1-2 on the road trip. They will pick up on their travels on Friday, when they take on the Phoenix Suns, who are also 2-3. The Cavaliers will hope to get both of their big men back for that game and try and get back to .500 on the season.
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