Stephen Curry made nine 3-pointers and scored 42 points, Kevin Durant added 25 and the Golden State Warriors came back to face a very different looking Cleveland team for the first time since winning another NBA title, and beat the Cavaliers 129-105 on Wednesday night.
Curry scored nine points in less than a minute midway through the fourth quarter to help the Warriors pull away for their eighth straight over their former Finals rivals, Curry added nine rebounds, seven assists and appears completely healed after missing 11 games with a strained groin. Durant had 10 rebounds and nine assists.
It was Golden State’s first visit to Cleveland since June, when the Warriors completed a sweep to win their third championship in four years.
Nothing looked the same.
The Cavaliers lost LeBron James over the summer as a free agent and are starting from scratch after a four-year run as Eastern Conference champions. Cleveland also is playing without injured All-Star Kevin Love, forward J.R. Smith is on a forced hiatus and the team recently traded Kyle Korver.
Tristan Thompson, one of the only holdovers from those powerful Cleveland teams, had 19 rebounds and 14 points. Rookie Collin Sexton scored 20 points for Cleveland.
For Warriors coach Steve Kerr, the Golden State-Cleveland Finals, a four-act play loaded with drama and intensity, had it all.
“Some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen in my life,” Kerr said. “Obviously, they have a new team and so you move on. Part of me is a little nostalgic for that.”
But those days are gone.
“It’s not a rivalry, it’s another game,” he said. “They’re trying to build something and we’re trying to continue our run for as long as we can.”
The Warriors had trouble shaking the Cavs until Curry took control. Golden State’s lead was just 10 when he got fouled while hitting a 3-pointer and completed the four-point play. He then buried another 3 and followed that with two free throws to put the Warriors ahead 116-99 with 5:34 left.
Rodney Hood’s off-balance heave — he caught the ball in and flung it toward the hoop — gave Cleveland a 64-58 lead and capped an action-packed first half.
With Hood scoring nine quick points, the Cavs opened with a 12-2 run, fell behind by eight and then made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the final 1:10.
Curry scored 25 in the opening half, making six 3-pointers.
Warriors: Kerr said F Draymond Green (sprained toe) could return as early as Monday when Golden State hosts Minnesota. Green has gradually increased his on-court work of late and Kerr said he “had another good day today. He’s really making strides.” Green rode the stationary bike in the hallway outside the Warriors locker room before the game. ... On a five-game road trip without a single back-to-back for the first time since 1985-86. ... C DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) has started practicing and is making progress, but the team does not have a specific timeline for his return. ... Durant and Shaun Livingston were assessed technicals.
Cavaliers: Thompson, too, said the Warriors-Cavaliers rivalry is officially over. “It’s in the past. New season. New team. Our ballclub is different and they’ve made some changes, but predominantly the same. That’s all the last four years,” Thompson said. “That was great for the NBA. We’re in a new chapter for our organization.” ... Coach Larry Drew said there is one positive to the Cavs no longer being an elite team. “I get Christmas off this year, so I’m excited about that,” he joked. Turning serious, Drew said he’ll savor the best run in Cleveland history. “I’ll look back personally and just say, ‘Wow I was in the Finals four straight years’ and that’s something I’ll always remember,” he said.
Warriors: Conclude five-game trip Friday night at Milwaukee.
Cavaliers: Host Sacramento on Friday night.