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NO BULL. JUST STRAIGHT HOOPS.
June 2, 2016
By Anthony J. Fredella
OAKLAND, California - So many story lines discussed. So many matchups dissected. So many x-factors identified. It was billed as The Rematch. The Cavs and Warriors, Round II. Cleveland still reeling from last season's NBA Finals loss in six games, with vivid memories of LeBron James carrying a decimated Cavaliers' team on his back. The Warriors, winners of a record 73 regular season wins this season, fresh off of a viciously fought come-from-behind series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was the NBA Finals that everyone wanted. Game 1, however, did not live up to the hype.
Despite the highly anticipated performances from the series' superstars, including reigning back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry, this game was won by the unsung heroes of Golden State Warriors. Guys like Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston were the catalysts behind the Warriors' Game 1 W. In fact, through the first two quarters of action, Curry and his backcourt teammate, Klay Thompson, the two leading scorers for the Dubs all season long, combined for just 10 points, and finished the game with a collective 20. While on the other side of the ball, the Cavs Big Three of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love attempted to spearhead the Cavs' attack, combining for 36 of the Cavaliers' 43 first half points. Despite the disparity, however, the Warriors still held a nine point advantage at the break.
In the 3rd quarter, though, the Cavs took advantage of the cold shooting of Curry and Thompson, as James and Irving continuously attacked the basket for buckets, fouls, and sometimes both. Coach Tyronn Lue took a page right out of the Thunder's playbook, challenging his players to be strong with the ball, get to the basket, and not settle for jumpshots. It was that same philosophy that pushed the Warriors to the brink of elimination last round against the Thunder. The Cavs' duo was simply fantastic in creating offensive opportunities. Only when the Warriors collapsed their defense, or doubled LeBron in a post-up mismatch, was the ball kicked out and swung around for a look from three. The strategy helped the Cavs claw back and take a one point lead late in the 3rd, before giving up fifteen straight points to the Warriors to end the 3rd quarter and start the 4th. And again, it was not the Warriors' normal studs, as Iguodala, Livingston and Leandro Barbosa scored thirteen out of the fifteen points during the run that eventually was the difference maker.
From that point forward, the Warriors did what champions do, and put the game out of reach, earning a solid 104-89 Game 1 victory. If anything, Golden State showed tonight that they were more than a one trick pony. The Warriors won the first game of the NBA Finals with a complete team effort, on the defensive, and certainly the offensive, ends of the floor. The Dubs finished with seven players in double figures, with Shaun Livingston leading the way with 20, and established that if the shots are not falling for Curry and Thompson, they can still win basketball games in a forceful manner.
For the Cavaliers, a Game 1 loss away from home is not the end of the road. LeBron James set the tone that he will not be as passive this series as he was at times against the Raptors. Irving continued to play like the superstar PG that he is, and has been playing like these entire playoffs. Even Kevin Love had a terrific game, earning a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. But even in light of those efforts from the Big Three, and the off games of both Curry and Thompson, the Cavs could still not get the ever elusive W at Oracle Arena tonight. That says something not only about the Warriors, but about this series.