1. During our Finals Preview pod (which y’all should totally listen to) when breaking down the position to position matchup we all agreed that a great deal of Golden State’s success would hinge on the play of first year Warrior Kevin Durant. There was a little questioning whether or not he was ready to perform as needed on the grandest stage of them all. If last night is any indication, he’s answered us and many others with an emphatic yes. KD’s 38 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists paced the Dubs to a convincing game 1 win. In his 37 minutes Durant showed us why his acquisition was so vital. His ability to score so efficiently from anywhere on the the floor was the one things missing from the team that seemingly had it all.
His 23 first half points which helped them take an 8 point lead into the half set the tone for what ended up being a game in which they handily ran away with in the third quarter. Durant’s efficiency last night (he got his 38 points on 14 of 26 shooting including 3 of 6 from three) is representative of what I feel was the overarching theme of Golden State’s play last night and that is control. This is important because this was something that was missing from the Dubs in the second half of the Finals last year that ultimately costed them a title. With Durant playing at this level he along with the rest of the Warriors play with a handle of the game that is unmatched by any team in the association. This is important because there’s probably no team in the league better at taking advantage of their opponent’s short circuits than Cleveland.
2. Stephen Curry is also a human being that happens to be really good at basketball. His 28 points, 6 boards and 10 dimes proved to be the perfect compliment for Durant’s big night. Hitting half of his shots as well as penetrating and creating on the pretty poo Cleveland D at will Curry seems determined to be sure we never put the babyfaced assassin in the corner again. He would also quite surprisingly be the only other Warrior to score in double figures. Draymond Green definitely deserves a shout out not so much for what’s in the boxscore (he did flirt with a double double with 9 and 11) but his defense and well his………Draymondyness was very impactful. Speaking on defense, this is where the rest of the Dubs really dug in and took control. Klay Thompson’s shooting struggles continued unfortunately but his defense was on point last night. Zaza Pachulia and YES JaVale McGee in addition to Green, defended well at the rim including holding Tristan “TrashGawd” Thompson-Kardashian scoreless.
Then the platoon of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Ian Clark and David West helped spark this defense’s performance that did an excellent job at shutting down those role and bench shooters that has been the secret of Cleveland’s success up to this point. How much so do you ask? Golden State did only outscore the Cleveland bench 24-21 But while the Dubs compiled their 24 on 10 of 21 shooting the Cavs bricked their way to 21 on 6 of 24 shooting. Also worth noting, last night wasn’t a great shooting night for the Dubs. They shot 42% from the floor and 36% from three. But they played at such a pace on offense that stymied that Cavs and with such intensity on defense that it really didn’t matter. But that leaves me to ask, what if their shot DOES start to fall? Scary.
3. I suppose you can ask the same of the Cavs. But before we do a deep dive into Cleveland’s woes here let’s tall about the positives. LeBron James had his gameface on as we all expected. His line of 28-15-8 albeit with 8 turnovers (kudos again to that Golden State D). Sure, the numbers look good but the story behind the numbers is that all of those points were hardscrabbled and James never got comfortable and that’s a huge problem. Kyrie Irving had a decent scoring night pouring in 24 points but also had trouble protecting the basketball turning it over 4 times while only tallying 2 assists. Kevin Love was a monster on the boards last night grabbing 21 rebounds and blocking three shots but his shot never really got establishes as he struggled his way to 15 points on 4 of 13 shooting despite doing well from beyond the arc.
Damn, even the few superlatives the Cavs are worthy of comes with a big slice of humble pie. And as mentioned before Thompson who’s averages roughly a double double to this point was held scoreless and was a complete non-factor on the boards as he could only manage 4. Then there’s the shooting, or lack thereof. The Cavs came into this series shooting around 50% from the floor and 43% from 3. Last night all they could muster is 35% from each. Their bench, who has as a collective been on fire all playoffs shot a paltry 2 of 13 from deep. In the preview pod we also talked about how Golden State has the only second unit that Cleveland can’t smoke and this all played out last night. Look, I know it’s a long series and one would be a fool to make any outlandish assumptions about how this will play out moving forward especially with these two. But last night is most definitely a cause for.concwen on the Cavs end.
And for all if the two about their impressive road to the Finals the one thing we’ve never seen is Cleveland having to make major adjustments to the way they play. Not saying that this is what’s needed now but if these legs are starting to get tired they definitely don’t want to wall themselves in with all the bricks they’re laying.