The Golden State Warriors made a resounding statement with a 113-91 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals on Thursday night.
Kevin Durant led the way with a monster performance of 38 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Stephen Curry added 28 points and 10 assists. The Warriors tallied 41 assists and tied an NBA Finals record with just four turnovers in Game 1.
LeBron James finished with a team-high 28 points along with 15 rebounds and eight assists for the Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving added 24 points. Cleveland committed 20 turnovers and shot 11-for-31 from three.
Game 1 roundtable participants:
- Justin Cortes
- DJ Allen
- Justin Kirkland
- Felix John-Baptiste
1. Was Game 1 simply a sign of what’s to come in the series, or do you see this as a possible feel-out game for the Cavs?
Cortes: A little bit of both. This is the style of play Golden State enjoys when everything is clicking for them, easy baskets at the rim from turnovers. Then you have Steph and KD playing like their MVP-selves, it’s tough to stop. The Cavs on the other hand, can use this to adjust for Game 2. There were far too many easy baskets at the rim for guys like Durant. Could they gameplan for Game 2 so that these easy baskets are no more?
Allen: I agree with Cortes, I believe it’s somewhere in the middle. The Golden State Warriors did a great job of taking care of the ball and being the aggressor on defense. They made it tough for the Cavaliers at the rim and caused them to cough the ball up a lot. I don’t believe Cleveland will have that many turnovers in the next game but this just goes to show how great the Golden State Warriors can be when they truly value the ball and apply pressure on defense.
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Kirkland: The Cavs were blown out in Game 1 last year as well. Last night is not a sign of things to come. LeBron is an all-timer and the Cavs will find a way to adjust in Game 2. Kevin Durant is going to get his no matter what but the high turnover count and lack of scoring support from anyone not named Kyrie Irving should change going forward.
John-Baptiste: Yes and No. We can expect to see Steph and KD show up for the entire series, that’s for sure. But at the same time we can expect the Cavs to make small personnel adjustments and slightly bigger game plan adjustments. Each game is its own entity. They will be fine.
2. What impressed you the most about Golden State’s performance in Game 1?
Cortes: Defense. Golden State forced 20 turnovers from Cleveland, including eight from LeBron James himself. This led to a huge amount of easy baskets Kevin Durant, which of course got him flowing offensively. The defense from Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is also of note.
Although the shots weren’t falling for both Green and Thompson, they put all their energy on the defensive end of the floor. Draymond had a bunch of altered shots near the rim and Klay forced his counterparts to go 1-12 when he was guarding them. So much has been made about Golden State’s elite offense that everyone seemed to forget how equally good their defense is.
Allen: It was definitely the defense. The Warriors are at their best when they get stops and play in transition. Despite the shooting woes of Klay Thompson, he locked in defensively alongside Draymond Green and got the job done. Kevin Durant played stellar defense on LeBron James as well just making things tough for him and contesting everything at the rim.
Kirkland: Kevin Durant and their overall team mentality. One reason this is possibly the greatest team to ever be assembled is simply that they are incredibly unselfish. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are all capable of putting up big numbers as B+ to A+ talents in this league. For them to start the game and see that KD was rolling and continue to just let him do his thing was great to see as a basketball fan. Kevin Durant has the weight of the world on his shoulders this year. The public demands that not only he win this championship but also that he be a key contributor along the way. I believe he does not care what anyone things and he went out last night and played like it.
John-Baptiste: Efficiency and consistency off turnovers. This team is maddening to defend in a scramble situation. We saw KD waltz into the lane for 2-3 uncontested, unguarded dunks on the break. They don’t dribble, dribble, dribble, pass. They dribble, pass, pass, pass, and that’s what makes them so dangerous.
3. What are the main adjustments/improvements Cleveland needs to focus on for Game 2?
Cortes: Well first things first, they need to limit turnovers. Turning it over against any team is bad but against the Golden State Warriors? Might as well throw in the towel. 20 turnovers is far too many for Cleveland and as seen, the Warriors can turn those into easy baskets. Transition defense also needs to improve. The Warriors, especially KD, got way too many easy baskets in transition. Many of those were because of Cleveland choosing to close out on Curry instead of protecting the lane. At some point, they’re gonna have to close out the lane.
Allen: I believe they have to make a concentrated effort to lock down Durant and Curry. There were too many dunks for KD and too many open threes for Stephen Curry. When these guys get going, you’re going to have a hard time beating them. I truly believe that if they try to make someone like Klay, who’s struggling or Draymond Green beat them offensively then they’ll have their best chance in Game 2.
Draymond talks about the importance of KD being able to "go get a bucket," for the Warriors. #NBAFinals
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) June 2, 2017
Kirkland: The Cavs primarily need to limit the turnovers and that is obvious. Also where is Tristan Thompson? He is one of the best rebounders in the league and was not seen or heard from all game. They cannot have empty minutes from him. The Warriors dominated on the offensive boards and turned them into extra shots that they capitalized on. Between offensive rebounds and turnovers, you’ve got a recipie for disaster when you are dealing with an explosive team like Golden State.
John-Baptiste: Take. Care. Of. The. Ball. The Cavs had 20 turnovers for 21 points. That’s the ball game right there. Those no shot attempts for Cleveland turned into 20 more shot attempts for Golden State (106-86). That adjustment in itself can be the difference.
4. LeBron, Kyrie, and Love combined for 67 of Cleveland’s 91 points in Game 1. Do the Cavs need a significant unsung hero to emerge in order to pull this off?
Cortes: Yes. The Big Three of Love, Irving, and James are gonna get theirs, no doubt, but they need more than that especially against the Warriors. Tristan Thompson was too much of a non-factor in Game 1 for Cleveland’s liking. He only grabbed four rebounds and didn’t score at all which hurts the Cavs a lot. Guys like Kyle Korver and Deron Williams also need to step up and hit open shots.
Allen: As Shaq always says, “You need the others to win championships.” Yes, someone else from the Cleveland Cavaliers has to step up and make some plays whether that’s offensively or defensively. Production from three guys is not going to get it done. It may have worked in the three previous series but going up against a juggernaut like the Golden State Warriors, it’s going to take a lot more.
Kirkland: As previously stated Tristan Thompson needs to own the paint. If you cannot dominate the paint and force the Warriors out of that small-ball lineup, it is going to be a short series. If I am the Cavs I want to see Tristan Thompson forcing himself to the line and gobbling up the boards so I can see more Zaza and McGee and less Iggy and Livingston.
John-Baptiste: They don’t need one significant unsung hero, but just a fair contribution from the collection of its deep bench. They have multiple players that can shoot and contribute on the offensive side of the ball. It’s up to Tyronn Lue to find the unit that can give enough offense without giving up too much on defense.
5. Tyronn Lue called the Warriors the best team he’s ever seen after Game 1. What do you make of that comment?
Cortes: They are well on the way to being in that discussion, but if the previous Finals taught us anything, it’s that we wait until the series is actually over.
Allen: Funny. Just last week he stated how they weren’t as hard to guard as the Boston Celtics. But now they’re the best team he’s ever seen… It sounds a little contradictory if you ask me.
Kirkland: They are.
John-Baptiste: A reigning two-time MVP (including 1 unanimous), another former MVP, 3 point shooting champ, and potential defensive player of the year, all on one unit. You figure it out for yourself.