With Game 1 now a memory, we look toward the evening’s winners and losers …
Working in his first Finals game as a member of the Golden State Warriors, Durant was an absolute splash from the beginning. Scoring 23 points in the first half alone on a bevy of dunks and quick finishes, the 2014 NBA MVP finished with 38 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Astonishingly, he registered zero turnovers in Golden State’s 113-91 conquest in Game 1.
Durant, whose Oklahoma City Thunder fell to LeBron James’ Miami Heat in the 2012 Finals, certainly had plenty of time to consider what was most assuredly going to be a return to the Finals upon his agreement with Golden State last July. Working in Game 1, he forcefully finished off a series of broken plays or missed Cavalier assignments, looking to create off of missteps and constantly pushing the ball in transition. Allowed to batter Kyrie Irving on a pair of mismatches, Durant did his worst all while registering a team high six first half assists.
The 28-year old didn’t win his battle with LeBron James outright, but he certainly had his way with whomever Cleveland threw in his direction, even LeBron (28 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, eight turnovers). It was impressive to see Durant to play with such rhythm, thinking on his feet after so many days off during this weak postseason, lighting a spark under a Warriors team that could have needed most of Game 1 to shake off the cobwebs after nine days off.
A year after The Turnover, a year after his miss at the end of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals and a postseason scuttled by injury, Curry came through with glee in Game 1.
The two-time reigning MVP managed 28 points in 24 minutes of play, nailing 11-22 from the field with 10 assists, six rebounds and just four turnovers on a night that saw Golden State cough it up only four times.
Cleveland’s attempt at defense
By the time the second quarter hit, the Cleveland Cavaliers were caught up in the deadening realization that has touched on just about every NBA franchise in 2016-17 – there are just so many of them to guard.
The Cavaliers entered the postseason with one of the worst defenses of any championship contender in recent history, and the team did little to improve upon things at that end in spite of a 12-1 traipse through the postseason. In Game 1 the Warriors were afforded a series of good looks, unimpeded lanes, easy hops toward the rim and/or open spots that had nothing to do with the 20 turnovers Cleveland coughed up.
Golden State’s efficiency wasn’t even outrageous, in its too-comfortable Game 1 take. The Warriors missed heaps of open looks and, worse, overlooked several bountiful looks around the court as the Cav defense crumbled. No Cleveland lineup was immune from the missteps, in ways that will cloud the Cavalier coaching staff’s ability to settle on workable lineups moving forward.
It’s hard to excuse LeBron James too much on a night that saw him cough up a team-high eight turnovers, but James is going to have even less fun watching this game than he did working through it.
Cavs not named “LeBron” or “Kyrie Irving” combined to shoot 11-44, a whopping 25 percent for all you sports fans out there, with a series of Cav teammates whiffing on a series of expert, would-be assists from James. Kevin Love hauled in 21 rebounds to go with three blocks, and he did score 15 points on 13 shots, but Tristan Thompson managed just four rebounds in nearly 23 minutes with Kyle Korver and Deron Williams coming off the bench to miss all seven looks from the field.
The Cavaliers have happily lived with substandard defense before, but missed opportunities in the paint, whiffed three-point tries and those 20 turnovers cannot fully be explained away by Golden State’s postseason-best defense. This was not the Cavaliers at their finest.
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