After the Cavilers’ game one loss to the Warriors, here are my initial thoughts. More on the podcast tomorrow.
1) Defense, defense, defense
I hate to say I told you so, but I am doing to do just that. On the podcast today, I pointed out that not enough people are paying attention to the defensive aspects in this series and that reared its ugly head tonight. How many times did the Cavs just flat out let Kevin Durant run the lane completely uncontested to throw down a dunk? I get that Cleveland was trying to show respect to the three ball, but how many times are you going to allow the same play to be on replay? At halftime, the defending champs were lucky to be down by just eight points; imagine if Golden State made all of those layups.
Meanwhile, the Warriors showed why they are the best defense team in the league as they slowed down the previously hot Kevin Love and frustrated LeBron into forced decisions. It became even more apparent that it is guys like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green (even when they aren’t shooting well like they have been recently) who carry the heavy workload defensively that doesn’t get on the highlight reel. I completely understand why Green is consistently brought up as one of the best defenders in the NBA, but Thompson deserves to be in that conversation as well.
2) Sending a message
Maybe it was the nine day layoff, or people’s admiration with LeBron’s postseason play so far, but the public perception seemed to shift more and more towards the Cavs with each passing day. Many went from having the Warriors in five, to Golden State in seven or even convincing themselves to pick the Cavs. This isn’t to say Cleveland has no shot of winning this series, but it is a reminder who the superior team really is.
3) Cleveland fails to perform when it really counts
Let’s be honest, by the time the fourth quarter hit this one was a wrap. In those first three quarters, Love and Irving combined for 25 points which just isn’t good enough. You combine that with below average performances from Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Kyle Korver and Cleveland didn’t stand a chance.
However, even I, the LeBron apologist that I have been accused of being ever so often, has to admit that James just didn’t perform well enough. Seven turnovers in the first half? Are you kidding me? Can not happen. Listen, ball movement is a large part of what has made him so great, but at some point you have to shoot the ball and use your height.
1) Kevin Durant
It was this series that the number two player in the world came to the Bay Area for and he was clearly the best player on the floor tonight. With the spotlight securely focused on him, Durant absolutely dominated the Cavs’ defense and took anything and everything they gave him. Hiding behind the fact of the decision to join the Warriors, is a reminder of just how good Durant can be.
2) Stephen Curry
For all the talk about him struggling in the last two NBA Finals, and rightfully so, the former unanimous MVP looked like the player he has been all postseason long: efficient, dominate at times, and unguardable. I know he goes through his ups and downs even in a game like this, but the amount of attention he garners defensively opens up so many opportunities for Durant and company.
3) Draymond Green
I know you might expect me to put at least one Cleveland player in the top three, but I just can’t do that. Plus, Green performed at his usual level defensively and was out on the floor in the third quarter when the Warriors put the game out of hand. The emotional center of Golden State’s efforts added consistent and reliable performance on the boards all game long.
1) Kevin Love
The big man who had been played like his Minnesota self failed to show up. Offensively, we was dominated by Thompson for large parts of the night and was controlled on the boards by more physically willing guys as well. If the Cavs have a shot in this series, Love has to perform way better.
2) LeBron James
Again, I love LeBron, but his seven turnovers in the first half were inexcusable. Plus, there isn’t a fact to back this up, but the eyeball test didn’t see that usual consistent player defensively. Way too often Durant just blew right by James with relative ease. The second best player ever can lose this series, but he can’t lose it in this fashion if he even wants the chance to be mentioned in the same breath as Jordan.
3) Kyrie Irving
Again, I have a hard time putting any of the Warriors’ players on this list. The only reason he isn’t higher is because I thought he was the most consistent player with 17 points in the first three quarter. Still, Irving has to be better for Cleveland to have a real chance.
Tomorrow: Podcast with my full breakdown of this game
-Article by Nick Friend