OAKLAND — The issue for Cleveland coming into the NBA Finals was whether or not the Cavaliers’ supporting cast could provide enough help for LeBron James to make it competitive. Not only has that help failed to materialize for James, but Golden State’s supporting cast has been off-the-charts good, especially center JaVale McGee and veteran guard Shaun Livingston.
The Warriors have taken a 2-0 lead, and Livingston and McGee have combined to shoot 17-for-18 in those two games. The only miss was an uncontested, point-blank dunk by McGee in Game 1. They were 11-for-11 for 22 points in the Warriors’ 122-103 Game 2 win Sunday night at Oracle Arena.
McGee was a surprise starter at center and opened the game with two straight dunks to trigger a 15-6 opening burst that gave the Warriors a lead they never surrendered. Coach Steve Kerr said he went with McGee to get more scoring and energy.
“JaVale is so explosive, and with the way he runs, it gives us some pace, it gives us some energy,” Kerr said. “He did a great job.”
Livingston made all five shots he took in Game 2 and now is 9-for-9 in the series. Kerr once asked Livingston to take threes in the past, but while he wasn’t comfortable from long range, he remains a great mid-range shooter.
“This is his fourth Finals, and he just looks comfortable out there,” Kerr said. “He’s been great. He’s been rock solid at both ends, taking what’s there for him. The scoring he gave us off the bench and the defensive toughness and rebounding, he’s a guy who gets it. He understands how to play.”
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said it’s tough to guard that Warriors pair when the Cavaliers have to focus on stopping stars Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. “We’re helping off [McGee and Livingston] and paying attention to Klay, Steph and Durant, so they might get some shots, but we’ve got to take away the easy ones.”
McGee and Livingston understand the opportunities that are available to them and have made the most of it. “Everyone isn’t focused on you so much,” McGee said of the Cavs’ defenders. “They are focused on Draymond getting people open and assisting everybody. They are focused on Klay, K.D. and Steph scoring. So, it makes it a lot easier on me.”
Explaining how much he relishes the big stage of the Finals, McGee added, “It’s amazing. It’s a lot of fun. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in basketball.”
Livingston credited McGee for pushing the pace on offense with his energy. Once the Warriors get rolling, the floor opens up for their offense. When Livingston comes off the bench, the offense doesn’t miss a beat because he knows how to be opportunistic.
“It’s just taking good shots,” Livingston said. “A lot of those are layups and dunks, so it’s just being in the right place at the right time . . . Knowing that the offense is going through our main players, we have to be able to provide outlets for them and make the defense pay for helping out.”