Despite fantastic defense on Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, the Cleveland Cavaliers played slow, predictable offense and succumbed once again to the depth, talent and intelligence of the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors take a 1-0 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, beating the Cavaliers 104-89, mostly thanks to their second unit dominating, going on a 29-8 run from late in the third quarter until midway in the fourth. No, this wasn’t due to some three-point barrage from Curry and Thompson, or Draymond Green getting into that extra gear he has. This was about the ability of Shaun Livingston to embarrass the point guards in front of him, of Leandro Barbosa to show up out of nowhere, and of Andre Iguodala, last year’s Finals MVP, and the best player on the floor in game 1.
Iguodala finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, playing 36 minutes. He and Livingston dominated against the Cavaliers starting lineup, taking advantage of Kyrie Irving doing terribly on defense, and LeBron James slowing things down to a halt, and making bad decisions along the way. Isolating their stars down low or around the perimeter simply isn’t going to work in this series, against this rival. The Cavaliers did a good job on defense: Letting the other beat them is a sound plan. But being unable to produce fast break points and fall into the same stagnation offensively will leave them way short of competing in this series.
Curry and Thompson combined to score just 20 points while shooting 8-for-27 from the field. The Cavaliers got 66 points from their big three, including 26 by Kyrie Irving, LeBron James with 23 and one assist short of a triple double, and 17 from Love, who did very well as the Cavs managed to come back from a double digit deficit and grab the lead in the third. But he didn’t do anything in the fourth quarter, and unless he starts dominating in the paint, the Cavaliers are in trouble.
J.R. Smith was the big absentee for Cleveland. He scored just 3 points and took just 3 shots. The Warriors focused on Cleveland trying to get him and Channing Frye open, denying the open shot. With only one player in motion while the others watch, it wasn’t that difficult. The two players the Cavs rely on to take advantage of spacing and open looks combined for 5 points and just four shots. Having Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert on the floor was damaging, especially on offense.
And if this is going to be a big three vs the Warriors series, it’s going to end quickly. The Cavs shot 10 times more from the line, including 11-for-12 for Irving, getting more attempts than the entire Warriors team. But in the fourth, the referees allowed the Warriors to beat up anyone getting into the paint, while being too easy to call fouls on the other side, not that there were too many. This isn’t a game decider or series changer, but the Cavs can look at least four or five instances where they deserves to go to the line and didn’t.
So Draymond Green kicked someone again while flopping, and won’t get suspended. Dellavedova (unintentionally) hurt Iggy’s groin, and caused a 7-minute delay. Green and Harrison Barnes led the scoring among the Warriors lineup players with 29 points, as Barnes is looking to cement his place as a max-contract kind of player. Green made some big steals (4 altogether, including a clutch one to deny the Cavs from bringing the lead down to 7 in the fourth) in his way of sneaking up on players from behind during fast breaks. The Warriors didn’t play a very good game, and yet it felt like whatever the Cavs have to throw at them, they’ll always find an answer. For this series to be competitive, the Cavaliers can’t keep playing this kind of basketball.