A couple of hours before Game 2 of the N.B.A. finals, I watched Kevin Durant go through a balletic exercise.
The latest superstar addition to the Golden State Warriors balanced on one foot about 18 feet from the basket. An assistant tossed a basketball at him, which he caught without losing his balance. Then, still on one foot, he shot at the basket.
Durant hit about 80 percent of those shots.
The casual nature of this exercise was breathtaking, and it gave me a visual context for an exchange early in the fourth quarter on Sunday night. Durant found himself isolated on defense against the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love. A power forward, Love possesses a lovely bag of low-post tricks; he deked and spun and put up a hook shot.
Durant leapt and inhaled that shot. Then this man who is seven foot tall dribbled the length of the court. A couple of Cavaliers hit him and as Durant fell toward the court, he put up a butter-soft shot. It twirled through the hoop. Durant, of course, shot off one foot.
This finals matchup was billed as Godzilla versus Mothra III, the best of the West against the best of the East, who also are the reigning world champs. It appears Mothra slept in. The Golden State Warriors are like a weapons factory, with simply too great an abundance of brilliant and intelligent athletes.
Prime among those weapons is Durant, who came to the Bay Area from Oklahoma City last summer. He is a spindly wonder of hoops precision. To add him to a team that won 73 games and lost just 9 the season before seemed to be an exercise in excess.
That was correct. In this postseason, the Warriors can go slack for seven or eight minutes at a time, their passes flaccid, their shot-making a little off. Then the ball starts whipping about on the perimeter, and zipping inside, and they come upon an opponent like a summer storm.
So it was on Sunday. Midway through the third quarter, the Cavaliers, who after all still have the best player in this corner of the Milky Way, had held their own. LeBron James had put up a golden pile of statistics, passing like the reincarnation of Magic Johnson and barreling to the basket like the 9:04 out of Erie.
Steve Kerr, the Warriors’ coach, talked afterward of drawing plans to stop James, which amounted to sketching some Xs and Os for his players and wishing them luck. “You could see the force that he brought to the game,” Kerr said. “When he’s like that, not a whole lot you can do.”
Still there is that summer storm problem. It arrived with the Cavaliers down by just four points, 86-82, with 5 minutes 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
At which point 3-point shots fell like hail and passes whipped like storm winds and five minutes later, Golden State was up, 102-88. The Cavaliers, for all intents and purposes, had been blown into San Francisco Bay.
Someone writing under my byline in The New York Times predicted last week that the Cavaliers would win this series in seven games (I blame Russian hackers). And in fact, the teams’ stars are not so different. Durant is a multitalented marvel, but LeBron, at 32, still stalks the court with artful anger. Kyrie Irving lacks the playmaking ability of Stephen Curry, but his twisting, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t ball-handling and loving use of the backboard call to mind a latter-day Earl Monroe.
The Cavaliers’ supporting cast is another matter. The Warriors come at you in waves: Durant and Curry. And Klay Thompson and his metronomic jumper. And Draymond Green and his exuberant passion and smarts, and Andre Iguodala, a former N.B.A All Star. And so on it goes, like an army with unending reinforcements.
The Cavaliers’ bench is less formidable. J.R. Smith was oft-injured this past season and took just two shots in Game 2 and made none. Iman Shumpert is the putative defensive stopper. He came into the league needing to find go-to offensive moves. He is still searching.
When Durant blocked Love’s hook shot, the game’s result was sealed. Durant hit a 3-point shot in the face of James and then Curry came down and launched a 3-point shot from San Leandro. It hit just net.
I confess to some ambivalence about Curry. He is a loose-limbed twirling top of a player, and at his best the Pharoah Sanders of this team, a free-jazz innovator. At the same time, his Rockette leg kicks and preening and chest-bumping — at one point he beat James off the dribble and all but lathered himself in self-praise — are a bit much.
I sat in the news conference pillbox afterward and heard Curry talk about that play. He confessed that he had come into the locker room at halftime feeling down, after making a number of ill-advised passes. Coach Kerr, he said, had spread his gospel of joyous hooping.
“Coach got on me at half time about my body language and just trying to play with passion and play with joy,” he said. “The turnovers kind of got under my skin.”
So he celebrated. And who am I to say it doesn’t work?
The Cavaliers offered no talk of unconditional surrender. They came back last year and won the championship series after dropping the first two games to these same Warriors. Although, of course, any team that adds Kevin Durant is not the same team.