Warriors consider Christmas loss to Cavaliers 'a gift,' among other excuses

Ball Don't Lie
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4244/" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Durant">Kevin Durant</a> watches from the ground as <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3523/" data-ylk="slk:Richard Jefferson">Richard Jefferson</a> lets everyone know who’s still No. 1. (Getty Images)
Kevin Durant watches from the ground as Richard Jefferson lets everyone know who’s still No. 1. (Getty Images)

A rematch between the two teams that met in the NBA Finals each of the last two seasons lived up to the hype on Sunday, with Kyrie Irving channeling his Game 7 magic from this past June on yet another game-winner in the final seconds to cap the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback.

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Unlike the 3-1 series they blew in a quest for a second straight title, this collapse came on Christmas, with four months left in the regular season, so the Golden State Warriors are considering it a gift.

“We’re mad, man,” Klay Thompson told reporters after the 109-108 loss. “The way we lost that game, we gave them a gift. I mean, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, you know? We’re up 13 in the fourth quarter, and we just have to be solid and not turn the ball over, help each other on defense to win the game, and instead we’re throwing the ball over the court, leaving open shooters and just not playing our brand of ball, so you better be mad. I don’t care if it’s Christmas day or any game you lose, any time you blow a 13-point lead, it’ll piss you off.”

Golden State’s lead was actually 16 at one point and as much as 14 at 94-80 early in the fourth quarter, so Thompson should have been a little more pissed off about his team’s blown opportunity. Over the final 9:30, the Cavs outscored the Warriors 29-14, scoring 10 points off six turnovers and shooting a blistering 12-of-20 from the field, including the game-winner with 3.4 seconds remaining.

Golden State had one more chance to preserve a win, but Kevin Durant stumbled and couldn’t get a shot off before the final buzzer — a sequence that the newest Warrior also felt was a bit of a gift.

“I was trying to make a move, and I fell,” said Durant. “And I didn’t fall on my own.”

Durant suggested Richard Jefferson stepped on his foot during the play, forcing him to stumble, but the Cavaliers veteran wasn’t buying this notion that a referee no-call gifted Cleveland the victory.

“We all think we’re fouled on every play in every single game,” countered Jefferson. That’s why I say I know the referees have a very hard job. I switched to his body. It looked like he lost his balance.”

As for Golden State’s other MVP, Stephen Curry, he had his own excuses for why the Warriors lost.

“Honestly, I can’t have 11 shots,” said Curry, via The Mercury News. “I’ve got to get more looks at the rim. That’s nobody’s fault. I’ve just got to figure out a way to be more aggressive in that respect. And keep the defense honest and use all the talent we have on this team, including my scoring ability.”

Since the start of the 2016 NBA Finals, Curry is averaging 21.6 points on 40 percent shooting from the field in eight games against Cleveland — not horrible, but a fraction of the 30.1 points per game and 50.4 percent clips he posted last regular season. He finished just 4-for-11 against the Cavs on Sunday, and while Steve Kerr suggested those struggles had more to do with the still-in-progress dynamic of sharing touches with Durant, that doesn’t explain his difficulty opposite Irving dating back to June.

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Then, there was Curry’s defense, which apparently concerned Kerr enough to insert Shaun Livingston with the Warriors clinging to a one-point lead with 13 seconds left on Sunday — a move that left the unanimous MVP on the bench for Irving’s game-winner and a decision Curry didn’t entirely agree with.

“It’s (Kerr’s) call obviously, but the competitive nature, you want to be out there to make a play,” added Curry afterwards, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. “That’ll never die in me.”

Meanwhile, Golden State’s fourth and final All-Star, Draymond Green, blamed himself for some late miscues and credited the Cavaliers for executing down the stretch, “but if we take care of our business, it never gets to that point.” He then indicated he would address further concerns — like his technical foul — in a personal diary on Uninterrupted that was never posted at the end of the day.

The Warriors may be right about all of this — that they gifted the Cavaliers another win, Jefferson stepped on Durant’s foot, Curry didn’t take enough shots and they’re mismanagement of the final nine minutes cost them the game — but at what point do they begin to wonder if Cleveland is just better?

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Golden State left last year’s collapse figuring they would have won the series had Green not been suspended for Game 5, but this time it was the Cavs without a key starter, and still the excuses were aplenty. So, while the Warriors keep waiting to they play their game and take care of business, we’re left to wonder if this is their game and Cleveland will continue to give them the business.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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