This is a part of the story that we didn’t see coming. If you had to put money on the fact that Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson would combine for 20 points & the big 3 from the Cavs – LeBron James, Kevin Love & Kyrie Irving – would combine for 66 points, you would assume that Cleveland was running away with that game right? Right?
The Cavs were outhustled, outworked & just didn’t match the Warriors’ energy, which resulted in a 104-89 loss in game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals. In our previews, we mentioned that LeBron & Kyrie were going to have to be the stars for the Cavs, along with working through the Warriors defense by going inside, which, for the most part, they did. However, the biggest problem came on the defensive end for Cleveland, in that they didn’t think about the fact that the Warriors bench was going to go off for 45 points, 10 assists & only one turnover.
That is going to be a result for a loss each and every game. This was Cleveland’s chance to grab home court in the series, when the two best shooters in the entire league were as off as they have ever been as a duo. It is going to be harder in game two to grab that game at Oracle with two days off coming up, but here are some bright spots & low spots for both teams coming out of game 1 & looking at game 2.
Warriors Must Get Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson Going
Tonight was a bit of a blip in the radar – Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson are not going to be this bad again during the series. Cleveland did a great job of doubling Curry & Thompson, forcing up terrible shots and putting the game in the hands of the Warriors bench, which ended up burning the Cavs as we mentioned earlier.
The Warriors can’t rely solely on the bench to do great work each game of the series. Both teams are going to make adjustments towards game 2, & the Warriors must do more to get Curry & Thompson more open shots on a consistent basis. The bench did great tonight, but in order to win a championship, especially later in the series, the stars have to step up. Both men looked a bit fatigued from playing a tough seven-game series against Oklahoma City & all of the media obligations for the start of the NBA Finals.
Cleveland Cavs Bench Must Have Answer For Livingston & Barbosa
One of the areas where the Warriors are extremely superior to Cleveland coming into this series is at the backup guard position. Shaun Livingston & Leandro Barbosa proved to be bad matchup for the Cavs in game 1. Livingston was able to get virtually anywhere on the court & outhustled J.R. Smith & Matthew Dellavadova all night long, as well as used his length to get many rollers to fall consistently. The Cavs looked as though they had never seen Barbosa before. Combined, the two men had 31 points on 13-15 shooting – basically the main stats that sunk the Cavs & helped the team pull away in the second half.
It was clear that the Cavs did not prepare at all for the Warriors bench to be a true factor in this game, which will be worked on in game two with some adjustments. The Cavs did not make rotations well the entire night & it showed in the box score.
Going forward, Smith is going to have to play on Livingston quite a bit because of the size matchup and Irving & Delly will probably need to take turns running at Barbosa & playing honest with Curry & Thompson.
LeBron James Has To Go Inside Much More
Yes, many Cavs fans & NBA fans have said this for a long time…….LeBron James can’t revert to being a jump shooter to get the team back in the game. He has to be more aggressive with going to the basket. James had 23 points, 12 rebounds & 9 assists, but for the most part, he rendered himself out of the game at certain points with tons of dribbling & taking bad three-point shots.
Iguodala is a great defender & really locked down James in the second half, but James has to take the game more to the Warriors & draw more fouls. Yes, the NBA referees don’t always call a ton of fouls on LeBron because of his size & physical play, but he has to make the Warriors make a decision & send him to the free throw line, thus getting more players in foul trouble. James had only 4 free throws in game 1, that can’t happen if the Cavs are going to win the NBA championship.
The Warriors came away with a big victory despite not having their main stars going. The Cavs are going to have to prepare much better for a 10-man rotation in game 2 & prepare for the idea that Curry & Thompson will play better. If the Cavs are going to take a game in this series, they will have to have much more aggression to the basket & many more free throws – almost make the game a bit ugly.