Cavs Loss to the Warriors: The Aftermath

I'm not reaching for the panic button in the aftermath of the Cavaliers' 126-91 loss to Golden State on Monday night.

I'm telling myself the Cavs lost to the Warriors by 34 last year in Cleveland and still won the NBA championship, so maybe the 35-point beating at Oracle means it will take the champs just six games to beat the Warriors this time around.

C'mon, work with me, here.

I'm trying to sell myself on a couple of things:

First, the regular season doesn't matter.

Second, regular season and post-season NBA basketball are vastly different things.

Third, the Cavs will get serious about playing well once they start earnestly preparing to defend their title, or maybe when that championship is eventually on the line in the NBA Finals.

I can make a case that all of those things are true.

The problem is, even if the regular season doesn't matter...even if the Cavs aren't playing with any urgency yet and even if they'll step it up when the playoffs arrive, none of that guarantees they'll be good enough to beat the Warriors in June.

I still choose to believe they will because I remain unconvinced the Warriors can hang with the Cavs over seven games, particularly when five or six of those games will come down to possession-by-possession, grind-it-out basketball.

I still think the Finals math works in the Cavs' favor, even thought I expect Golden State to win one or two games easily. That's just what the Warriors do, because they are that good when their shots are falling.

That's what we saw Monday night at Oracle, where the Warriors were playing for the first time in three days and the Cavs were worn out after playing six games in 12 days.

Golden State not only looked great, it looked far superior to the Cavs, but that's what happens when the Warriors are at their best and the Cavs are at their worst.

J.R. Smith, who's a key part of defending Steph Curry, is out for a few more weeks. Kevin Love played only briefly with back spasms. And Kyle Korver has only recently been added to the rotation and isn't fully incorporated yet.

All of that added up to a 35-point win for Golden State, which if you're a Cavs fan is hard to take, but might be good in the long run.

Why?

Because there's a two-fold problem for the Warriors that grows out of a win like that.

First, the easier it beats the Cavs, the more Golden State lusts for every win to be that easy and the more it gets frustrated when that doesn't happen.

Second, the Cavs are perhaps the only team in the league so confident in themselves they don't panic when Golden State puts a blowout on the board.

The Cavs don't dwell on the beating. Instead, such a loss seems to raise LeBron James' level of awareness on how to beat the Warriors next time around.

No player in the league is more adept at adapting in the playoffs than James. That's a problem for everyone, but particulary for Golden State, which despite the wide-ranging excellence of its starting five still has no single player capable of guarding either James or Kyrie Irving straight up.

The Cavs have proven they can guard the Warriors, they just don't always do it.

When they don't, nights like Monday happen.

When they do, things like last June can happen.

(Listen to Bruce Hooley from 6-9 a.m. Monday-Friday on 1057 The Zone, your home for Cleveland Cavaliers basketball in Columbus and Central Ohio).

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