The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals by a score of 104-89. Leading the way for the Warriors was Draymond Green, who put up 16 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and a block and Shaun Livingston, who totaled 20 points (8-10 shooting and 4-4 from the line), 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal in 26 minutes. For the Cavaliers, LeBron James had a pretty typical LeBron playoff night, going for 23 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and a block. Ahead, we will look at what happened in Game 1, as well as my take on what it means for the series going forward.
The Splash Brothers were anything but their normal selves last night, scoring a combined 20 points (and 6 of those came when the game was already out of hand), shooting a combined 8-27 from the field and 4-13 from three. They could only muster 10 points at the half, a season low for the two of them. The Cavaliers defended the two of them well, they opted to trap Curry a decent bit and collapse in the paint whenever either of them drove. The two of them got some space on the perimeter, but most of their shots were contested or rushed, a good sign for the Cavaliers defense. I don’t think they can count on another game where the Splash Bros don’t give them at least 35, but they are currently doing a lot right on defense.
LeBron got to the hoop pretty well, but it didn’t work like Cleveland would have hoped. He started 4-5 with his average shot distance at under two feet, but after that he couldn’t buy a basket under the hoop. He finished 6-14 in the restricted area and 9-21 overall. Iggy defended him very well, as did Draymond (and s/o to Klay too he had like two blocks/strips on LeBron under the hoop when switched on him). But overall the Warriors defense was everywhere, cutting off and tipping passes, altering shots, and making things as hard as they could be for the King. Kyrie struggled from the field too (7-22) but shot 11-12 at the line. Love had a solid outing with 17 points and 13 boards, and they got little else from the supporting cast (although Tristan did have 10 points and 12 boards and played some pretty good defense). The Cavaliers won the rebounding battle by six, and while in the second half the Warriors sent more people to the boards, they ultimately chose to lose the rebounding battle and keep the shooters at bay.
The game really turned on its head at the beginning of the second quarter. Cleveland managed to hold the Warriors without a fast break point for the first fifteen minutes, but after that they were in trouble. As the pace of the game picked up, the Warriors rolled on a 15-5 run, and really opened up the game. Cleveland managed to pull the game back within reach in the third, but Golden State’s bench was too much for the Cavs to handle. The Warriors bench was on an absolute tear in the end of the third and beginning of the fourth, and Steph and Klay didn’t come in until there were less than 8 minutes left. Golden State’s bench gave them 45 points last night (compared to Cleveland’s 10), getting some hard midrange jumpers and floaters from Livingston, a 5-5 shooting performance from Leandro Barbosa, and a 12 point, 7 board, 6 assist outing from Andre Iguodala. It’s becoming clear that Cleveland doesn’t have anyone (besides LeBron) who can really guard Livingston, and while few expect him to keep shooting at an 80% clip, you can’t let him kill you. Same thing with Harrison Barnes, who played very well whenever the Cavaliers tried to put JR or Kyrie on him. These are the guys who you have to limit if you want to win a series.
Overall, Cleveland did some things well (including winning the fast break battle 18-9) and despite a lackluster performance from their bench, this really is the game they should have taken from Golden State at home. If you’re going to beat Golden State, you have to limit their role players and hope to God that Steph and Klay don’t hit hard shots. Cleveland did the second part pretty well, but Golden State isn’t going to lose any game where they have seven scorers in double digits. I feel like this game reaffirmed a lot of things said in our series prediction; the Warriors defended the three well, played well when the pace went up, constantly went at Love and Irving defensively (although they played okay defense), and Golden State played lockdown defense in the halfcourt. The Warriors simply looked much better than Cleveland,getting better looks, playing better defense, and looking every bit like the team who set the regular season wins record. This might be a short series.
Game 1 MVP: Draymond Green. Draymond was once again terrific on defense, helping on LeBron, getting out on his man, getting steals, and closing out on the defensive glass. On offense, the Cavaliers abandoned him to double Curry, and he made them pay by killing them in the 4 on 3. (I almost picked Livingston, but he was more the surprise performance of the game than the actual best player)