CLEVELAND — LeBron James is in Los Angeles playing for the Lakers, Kyrie Irving is in Boston, Kevin Love is out with a toe injury and J.R. Smith is away from the Cavaliers while they try to trade him.
Even Golden State power forward and chief antagonist Draymond Green was in street clothes due to a toe injury.
The teams that squared off in the last four NBA Finals — the Warriors prevailed three times — met Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, with Golden State blowing things open in the fourth quarter to win 129-105 in an entertaining game that simply had a much different atmosphere than previous encounters.
The Warriors outscored the Cavs 71-41 in the second half, including 34-19 in the fourth period.
“They’ve got so, so many weapons and so much firepower,” Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. “You have to sustain as much as you can against them, because they just keeping coming and keep coming and keep coming. There’s a reason they’re the defending NBA champions.”
A lot of fans in attendance donned blue-and-gold Warriors jerseys, sweatshirts and
T-shirts. Golden State players got their share of boos from the majority of the crowd, but they also got their share of cheers.
Stephen Curry made those wearing No. 30 happy, as he connected on 9 of 14 3-pointers en route to finishing with 42 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 34 minutes.
“It’s pretty rare, but Steph is rare in general in everything he does,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of his point guard, who was playing his third game after missing 11 with a strained groin.
Fellow former league MVP Kevin Durant backed Curry with 25 points, 10 boards and nine assists, also in 34 minutes. Klay Thompson added 16 points as the Warriors improved to 17-9.
“You try to prepare for it,” Rodney Hood, who started at power forward for the Cavs, said of the Warriors’ explosiveness. “You think about it. You talk about it. It’s another thing to go out there, especially when you’re not making shots.”
The Cavs (5-19) got a monster effort from Tristan Thompson, who finished with 14 points and 19 boards, while Collin Sexton (21), Jordan Clarkson (17) Cedi Osman (16), Rodney Hood (15, all in the first half) and Larry Nance Jr. (11) also scored in double figures.
That was in sharp contrast to veteran George Hill, who started in the backcourt with Sexton and went scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting in 25 minutes, though he did play solid defense on Klay Thompson for three quarters.
“It’s just one you have to get through,” Drew said of losing to the Warriors.
Up six at intermission, the Cavs fell behind 95-86 after the third period, when Durant scored 15 points. Eight came in the last 57.3 seconds, after Curry had gone to the bench for a rest.
It could have been worse, but Tristan Thompson scored Cleveland’s last six points of the quarter, all after grabbing offensive rebounds, before Golden State pulled away in the fourth.
“Six-point lead at halftime?” Drew asked rhetorically. “That’s nothing. That’s absolutely nothing.”
Cleveland started the second period on an 11-0 run, due in large part to great work on the boards by Nance, who finished the quarter with seven points and seven rebounds, then got a late barrage of 3-pointers to take a 64-58 lead at halftime.
The Cavs went 7-for-13 from deep in the second period and were 10-for-20 in the first half — Curry was 6-for-9 en route to 25 points — two nights after going 4-for-15 for the game in a 99-97 win in Brooklyn.
Cleveland also shot 15-for-22 from the field overall in winning the second period 39-27, but went just 1-for-12 on 3-pointers in the second half.
“It’s not about taking them just to take them,” Hood said of the 11-for-32 3-point shooting. “It’s about getting guys open to take them.”
The Cavs jumped to a 12-2 lead in the first two minutes behind nine points from Hood, but Curry scored 11 on four consecutive possessions and finished the first period with 16 as the Warriors took a 31-25 lead.
It was the NBA-high eighth time this season Curry had at least 15 points in a quarter.
“He’s just another player that is really good,” the 19-year-old Sexton said. “It was good going against him. It just got away from us.
“He just started making shots,” he added. “It was tough when that started happening.”
Contact Rick Noland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.