OAKLAND – Hoping that the 2017 NBA Finals would be more competitive than the rest of the playoffs? Better keep hoping.
The Warriors knocked out the Cavaliers 113-91 in Game 1 on Thursday, using a 10-0 run late in the third quarter to cruise to the blowout win. For Golden State, the offense came easy. At halftime, the Warriors had dished 20 assists to a single turnover and racked up 60 points despite a cold start from outside and a number of missed layups. Golden State tied the all-time record for fewest turnovers in an NBA Finals game with only four.
Here are three quick hits from Game 1, which saw Golden State improve to a perfect 13-0 in the playoffs and score its 11th double-digit victory of the postseason.
Killer Kevin Durant
Playing in his first Finals games since 2012, Durant wasted little time making a major impact. The 2014 MVP caused constant match-up problems for Cleveland all night, attacking smaller defenders on switches and relentlessly attacking the rim. There was little in the way of hesitation or nerves from Durant, who finished with a game-high 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Aside from LeBron James, the Cavaliers are lacking in good defensive options when it comes to handling Durant’s length, quickness and scoring ability. He blew past Cleveland’s big men, finished easily in the paint and made quick passing decisions when facing smaller defenders.
Turnovers plague Cleveland’s offense
The Cavaliers entered the Finals with an eye-popping 120 offensive rating. In Game 1, they managed just a 90.5 offensive rating, in part because of turnover issues. Golden State’s off-ball defensive activity caused problems for James, who committed eight turnovers against his eight assists. As a team, Cleveland committed 20 turnovers, a key factor in Golden State’s 27 points in transition. The Warriors ruthlessly turned defense into offense, as both Durant and Stephen Curry feasted on trailing threes.
While James will adjust to Golden State’s high-energy defense and sound rotations as the series goes forward, it’s safe to say that Cleveland’s offense may not be quite as ruthless as it looked against Indiana, Toronto and Boston.
Cleveland looks shallow
It would be premature to write off the Cavaliers just yet. After all, they lost Game 1 last year by 15 points and Game 2 by 33 points. Nevertheless, James needs a lot more help. Cleveland’s bench scored 20 points, but that figure was inflated by garbage time. Kyle Korver went scoreless in 19 minutes, Deron Williams went scoreless in 18 minutes and Richard Jefferson was the only rotation sub who brought much to the table. That, plus no-show nights from both J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, proved to be too much for Cleveland’s Big 3 to overcome.
Thompson’s quiet night stands out in particular. A difference-maker in last year’s Finals, he finished scoreless and secured just four rebounds in 22 minutes. His ability to generate second-chance points and finish plays set up by James is critical to Cleveland’s chances in this series.