The Golden State Warriors routed the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, 113-91.
In the process, the Warriors took a step closer in confirming what many people feared going into these Finals — they simply have too much firepower for any team to contain, even a team sporting LeBron James.
After the game, James was asked about the biggest difference between these Warriors and the 73-win team he overcame in last year’s Finals. His answer was simple.
Indeed, Kevin Durant was the star of the show in Game 1, scoring 38 points on 14-26 shooting, with eight rebounds, and eight assists.
What makes Durant’s addition even more devastating is the “gravity” he shares with Golden State’s other stars, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Previously, teams throughout the league, including the Cavs, would pick their poison against the Warriors, opting to leave Green or players like Harrison Barnes or Andre Iguodala slightly more open in order to contain Curry and Thompson.
Now the Cavs don’t have that luxury with Durant taking Barnes’ place. Durant and Curry in particular command so much attention on offence that the Warriors can poke holes in an overreacting defence.
Throughout the night, the Cavs were spooked by the Warriors shooters, sticking closely to Curry and others to prevent open threes. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue after the game said the Cavs got their coverage wrong, as it often led to a wide open Durant streaking down the lane.
The Cavs’ transition defence was poor all night, as evidenced by Kyrie Irving simply sliding out of Durant’s way near half-court. But what’s also notable is LeBron James staying attached to Curry, then committing a half-hearted help effort on Durant while Kyle Korver stays attached to Ian Clark.
One of the more egregious examples came when J.R. Smith, forced to choose between stopping Durant or covering Curry, ducked out of Durant’s way to cover Curry, leaving Durant with an open path to the basket.
Obviously, stopping the ball is the No. 1 priority, but Smith’s decision-making isn’t completely illogical, either. The Warriors thrive off of big threes. If Smith thought someone else was there to deter Durant, it makes sense to run out to Curry. Still, it was the wrong decision.
The Warriors’ offence simply spooked the Cavs all night. In the play below, Curry went to set a pin-down screen for Durant. James and Irving anticipated it so intensely that Durant just slipped back-door for a wide open alley-oop.
After the game, James stated the obvious of how much harder the Warriors are to guard now.
“I mean, you take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year, that we saw in the regular season and the postseason, and then in the offseason you add a high-powered offensive talent like that and a great basketball IQ like that, that’s what stands out.”
There are a few things the Cavs can’t do if they hope to beat the Warriors — turn the ball over more, give up fastbreak points, and allow second-chance opportunities, all of which they did in Game 1. Add some poor defensive execution and poor effort and they will have no chance.
Lue is correct in saying the Cavs can play better in Game 2 and give themselves a better chance to hang with the Warriors. Obviously, they will adjust their schemes and game plan to try to at least get rid of some of the easy opportunities they gave the Warriors.
But even with better execution and effort, the Warriors may now simply have too much for the Cavs to handle, and it starts with K.D.
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