(WTNH) — Game 1 of the NBA Finals is in the books, or, more appropriate in today’s day and age, in the cloud. You might have seen that the Warriors won, 104-89, but how did they get it done?
Let’s count the ways:
1. The Cavs’ defense didn’t put enough pressure on Golden State.
The Warriors saw clear lanes, and got plenty of open looks early. They ran their offense without distraction, and finished on easy baskets. They weren’t bumped as they ran through the lane, and Steph Curry wasn’t fighting his way through the 2016 version of the Jordan Rules, like he was against Oklahoma City. In short, it was a much easier game for Golden State than any of the Western Conference Finals contests had been.
2. The W’s weren’t nervous
In last year’s Finals, the Cavs looked like the more polished, experienced team, especially early on in the series. This year, it’s the Warriors. They’ve been there before, they know what it takes to get it done, and they didn’t look rattled like they did last year, particularly in the first three games of the series.
Golden State looked a lot like their 73-win selves on Thursday after looking like a shell of that against the Thunder. They hadn’t played well towards the end of the season, losing to Minnesota and Boston at home, and struggled for much of the playoffs (especially against OKC). But we finally saw Thursday the team that was unbeatable for six months, a team that can beat you with its great shooters, its spacing, its defense, its grit, and its bench.
3. The Bench (and role players) were Steady Mobbin’.
The Splash Brothers weren’t themselves, as Curry shot just 4-of-15 and 3-of-8 from three, for 11 points. Klay Thompson finished 4-for-12 with 9 points.
But Shaun Livingston picked up the slack, scoring 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Draymond Green finished with 16, 11 boards, 7 assists and 4 steals, and knocked down a couple of open threes. Harrison Barnes (13 points, 6-10 FG) knocked down open shots. Andre Iguodala (12 points, 5-9 FG, +21) did too.
The Warriors’ bench outscored the Cavs’ bench 35-10.
“I thought [Shaun] looked for openings, he was very aggressive. This was a strange game for us,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “We’re not used to having both Steph and Klay off like that with their shooting. But one thing we’ve talked about, if we defend and take care of the ball, we’re always going to have somebody score enough points for us to win.”
4. Golden State took care of the ball
Golden State only committed nine turnovers, clamping down after a sloppy series with the Thunder in which they looked like a high school team with some of their careless passes. They also shot nearly 50 percent from the field (43-87). Cleveland turned it over 15 times.
5. The Warriors’ D clamped down.
The Cavs looked unsure of themselves and out of rythm on offense–maybe a lot of that has to do with their summer vacation-like layoff in between series. But it also had to do with Golden State’s defense, which threw multiple players (Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes) at LeBron James and was constantly one step ahead of the Cavs.
Cleveland’s offense was predictable, and one-dimensional, and it didn’t have the uninterrupted flow that Golden State’s had, which allowed the Warriors to plug in big games from guys like Livingston and Green when Curry and Thompson weren’t feeling it.
Cleveland shot just 38% overall (33-84 FG) and 31% from three (7-21).
LeBron finished 9-for-21 (23 points), and Kyrie Irving was held to just 7-for-22 shooting, for 26 points (he did make 11 of 12 free throws).