The final score was 113-91 but the score didn’t reflect the magnitude of the Game 1 blow-out. Let me count the ways:
- The Warriors missed 28 uncontested shots including 10 layups. The score could have been worse for the Cavs.
- The Warriors defense gave up 52 points to the Cavs two super-stars, LeBron (28) and Kyrie (24), but held the rest of the team to 39 points. LeBron and Kyrie shot a combined 45% while the rest of the Cavs shot 25% for a combined team shooting percentage of 34.9%.
- Kevin Love had a quiet 15 points although he did have a great rebounding game (21).
- Tristen Thompson was invisible.
- There wasn’t a single Cavs player who had a + point differential while on the court. LeBron was -22 and Kyrie was -17.
- Conversely, there wasn’t a single Warriors player who had a – point differential while on the court. Steph was +20, KD was +16 and Iguodala was +14.
Steve Kerr’s game plan was simple. Play the hell out of defense and reduce turnovers. Possession in the playoffs mean everything. The resulting play of this strategy lead to 91 points given up and the creation of 20 turnovers while committing an NBA playoff record low 4 turnovers.
Taking the defensive strategy a level deeper, Kerr knew that they couldn’t contain LeBron and Kyrie so they focused on limiting the rest of the Cav’s players, especially at the 3 point line. LeBron, Kyrie and Love had 8 three pointers but the rest of the team had only 3. When your 4th best scoring player was Richard Jefferson with 9 points, that alone tells the story of how good the Warriors’ D was. Klay Thompson had a superb defensive game. When he was the primary defender on shots taken, the Cavs were 1 for 12. The pressure that he applied on Kevin Love’s jump shot early in the game was marvelous. Love’s shot was so far over the board and west of it, he was closer to the rim at the new stadium that the Warriors are building in San Francisco. Although Klay’s shooting stats were not good (3-16), his defense was much more valuable. And, as usual, Draymond had another monster defensive game.
Additionally, Kerr wanted to keep Tristen Thompson off of the boards. The result was that Thompson had a total of 3 offensive and 1 defensive rebounds. He was a rebounding monster throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Credit goes to Zaza for a fabulous job on Tristen.
The Cav’s strategy on defense was to protect the 3 point line. The Warriors knew this so Kerr told Brown to get KD involved early and often, especially going to the hoop. I lost count of how many dunks KD made. Fresh in my mind were 3 occasions where the Warriors ran down the court on a fast break and the Cavs ran away from KD to guard Steph at the 3 point line. It was like Moses parting the sea paving the way for KD to go directly to the rim for uncontested dunks. They tried to change that strategy at halftime so this left Steph open in the 2nd half for 5 of his 6 three pointers. Cavs have to pick their poison.
The Cav’s strategy on offense was to play primarily “iso” with both LeBron and Kyrie. They would either take it to the hoop or find an open player at the three point line. This worked really well in the Eastern Conference. It didn’t work against the Warriors as they protected the three point line really well. The result is well documented above.
Game 1 exposed the Cavs as a really good team against “normal” teams as their supporting players are great 3 point shooters when uncontested. LeBron and Kyrie had their way with those teams as they always found an open Cav’s shooter so they put up some eye opening 3 point stats against these teams. Unfortunately for the Cavs, the Warriors are not a “normal” team. Game 1 also exposed the Cavs as an average defensive team, certainly not up to par with the Spurs or the Jazz. Lastly, Game 1 exposed KD as the most dominant player on the floor and forced LeBron to “try” to play defense. While KD scored 38 points, what was equally important was that it forced LeBron to expend energy on defense making him tired on offense. Against, the Eastern Conference teams, LeBron took breathers on defense allowing him to focus more on offense.
KD and Steph both stated that this is only 1 game and have a lot of remaining work to do. They are focused and “locked” in and are thinking that the only game that matters is the next game. Steph said that every 48 minute game is its own event so they have to lock in each moment. He also said that it is not about them (him and KD) but about the team as a whole. The Cavs are also a great team and have been here before. They lost the first 2 games last year and came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship. One can never count out a LeBron lead team. Having said that, I’m really anxious how the Cavs will adjust in Game 2, especially when LeBron said that KD was what stood out in Game 1. He went on and said that the Warriors were one of the best teams ever assembled last year, then they add one of the best players ever in KD… It is what it is…
What makes this year’s Warriors more dangerous than last year?
- Steph is healthy.
- Last year’s Warriors thought they were invincible. This year, they aren’t taking anything for granted. They are locked in.