The Golden State Warriors continue their unabashed dominance in the NBA Finals with a convincing 113-90 Game 1 win over their rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Durant led the way with 38 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists but it was the stifling defense of the Warriors that really turned the tide in the 3rd quarter wherein they outscored the Cavs by 13 for this easy victory. LeBron James also had an impressive stat line with 28/15/8 but his 8 turnovers really hurt the team. The Warriors are now 13-0 in the playoffs.
While hope springs eternal for the Cavaliers faithful that the team can still win with the world’s best player, here are the reasons why the Warriors are heavy favorites:
1) Talent Gap – The talent gap between the Cavs Big Three – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love – and the Warriors’ Big Three of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green isn’t insurmountable. After that, the Cavs’ talent pool goes down considerably. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala clearly trump Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith. Benchwise, I’d like to call it even despite the stock of veterans with Cleveland.
2) Offense/Defense – When you are playing the Warriors, you need to pick your poison. The Cavaliers tried to defend the three-point line in Game 1 and they were successful, holding the Warriors to 10-30 shooting from beyond the arc. However, the Warriors quickly adjusted and used screens and pick and rolls to attack the basket, outscoring the Cavs 56-30 inside the paint. Unknown to many, the Warriors are one of the best defensive teams in the league and in Game 1, they turned LeBron into a one-man show by shutting down his teammates. The Warriors’ defense forced 20 turnovers while keeping the ball safe with only four turnovers.
3) Kevin Durant – The 2015 Warriors beat the Cavs for the NBA title but lost in a bruising seven game series last year. The Warriors replaced Harrison Barnes and added Kevin Durant. The Cavs, meanwhile, are essentially the same team. This is simply isn’t a rematch as Durant took advantage of every missed defensive assignment, lapses, and even moved the ball to find open teammates. Durant is deadly as a one-on-one player but under the Warriors’ egalitarian system, he is simply unstoppable.
4) Coaching – Despite being on the sidelines of this series due to health issues, Steve Kerr was very much involved in the pre-series practice and preparation for the Warriors and he is definitely giving tips to Mike Brown, who is also known as a great defensive coach. The Warriors’ brain thrust definitely has the edge in terms of experience and knowledge.
5) Hunger – After winning a championship, every team slacks off thinking they could it turn it on when it’s really needed. The Cavs had a relatively mediocre season before stepping on the gas on the playoffs. The Warriors, meanwhile, want to erase the stigma of blowing a 3-1 lead last year. And yes, Durant is aiming to get his first title ever so the Warriors definitely have better motivation.