Game 1 of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals was not as thrilling as many of us thought it would be. The Golden State Warriors (GSW) cruised to an easy 113-91 win at home over archrival Cleveland Cavaliers (CLE). Both teams had star-studded rosters to make a rip-roaring match-up. While Game 1 had its moments, the greater part of it saw the Warriors taking the Cavs to school.
We have to give a lot of credit to the “vengeful” home team, which waited a year for a chance at redemption against the same squad that doused ice-cold water on its 3-1 series lead, and even grabbed the crown in Oakland. The Warriors were amazing in Game 1, showcasing their stellar up-tempo game to near perfection, while committing just four turnovers in the entire game. That’s phenomenal. Of course, it didn’t help Cleveland’s cause that the Cavs turned the ball over 20 times, eight by Lebron James, and four by Kyrie Irving—two of the team’s biggest stars. James, arguably the greatest player of all times after recently surpassing the achievements of“His Airness” Michael Jordan, was great in Game 1 too, finishing with 28 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. James is basketball’s present-day superman, as he is strength, speed, and skills all rolled into one baller. But even his superb game wasn’t enough to save Cleveland. Heck, it wasn’t even enough to keep the game close.
Irving had 24 markers. Not bad. Kevin Love contributed a game-high 21 boards, and 15 points. But the rest were nowhere in sight, especially Kyle Korver and Tristan Thompson, who both had scoreless games. There’s no way the Cavs are beating GSW with this kind of production from key players. In contrast, Kevin Durant exploded for 38 points, and Stephen Curry added 28. The other half of the “Splash Brothers” —Klay Thompson—is still struggling in the playoffs. But we all know this guy can erupt anytime with a 30-plus game, maybe even 40-plus. Draymond Green, GSW’s best defender and passer, chipped in eleven boards and nine markers.
Best for Cleveland not to play at Golden State’s pace. GSW is so efficient with its offense, especially in transition, making them the league’s best offensive unit. The Warriors are also the best passing team, averaging about 30 assists per game. In Game 1, they had 31, while the Cavs only managed to get 15. Also, it didn’t help that the Cavs found no solution to the Warriors’ transition game. They covered the shooters too much that left Durant scoring in a couple of uncontested dunks. Conventional wisdom dictates that the Cavs should gamble on giving up the open treys instead of the easy baskets. But it seems this may not be exactly a good idea against an excellent three-point shooting team like Golden State. Come to think of it, do you really want Curry, Thompson and Green (Draymond is shooting 44.8 percent from beyond the arc in the playoffs) to take the open three-balls? And yes, they spread the floor so well in transition.
Do the Cavs need to turn the series into a defensive one? They need to improve their transition defense, that’s for sure. But to win the series, they also need to do a better job in offense. In short, they need to bring their A-game, every game.
Yes, we all remember how CLE rose from the ashes last year after trailing 1-3 in the series, and still managed to take the NBA title. And yes, they’re capable of repeating the same feat this year. But it won’t happen if James and Irving score below 30 points each, and the other top guns go missing. For Cleveland to stand a chance in the series, James must have a super game, like an over 35-point output, and then Irving having a 20-plus game, and Love, Korver, Thompson and Deron Williams adding double digits each. Or Irving can have a 30-plus game, James a 25-plus output, and the rest in double digits. After all, CLE is the best scoring team in the NBA, next to GSW.
Of course, with James around, the Cavs will always have a chance.