Posted on June 2, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Fans usually do not get exactly what they want when it comes to championship match-ups, but they did in the NBA Finals. After watching the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals the last two years, fans wanted the trilogy to happen. But not so much because they wanted to see the best two teams play for the title.
Golden State won one. Cleveland won one. You can’t settle a best two out of three scenario without a third matchup. It just so happens that the Warriors and Cavaliers are the two best teams in the NBA. So, it’s a win-win for the fans.
If Game One is any indication—and 70 percent of the time it is—Warriors fans may have some celebrating to do in about a week or so. Why?
Well—in typical Golden State fashion, they did the severe damage in one-quarter. But they also did a little in each quarter. The end result—a dominant 113-91 win for the Golden State Warriors.
Despite their turnover issues, lackluster defense, and poor shooting, the Cavaliers were in the game after the first but behind, 35-30. They clamped down a little harder in the second. But were not able to get their own offense moving and were down by eight at the half, 60-52.
Whatever adjustments the Cavs talked about at halftime didn’t work. The Cleveland defense simply couldn’t keep up with the Warriors in the third quarter. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Warriors were holding on to a commanding 21-point lead. The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by one in the fourth quarter to make the margin of victory 22-points.
“We could be a lot better than we were tonight but in the Finals, you get a `W,’ we’ll take it,” Durant said after the game.
If Durant can play better, the Cavaliers could find themselves being swept. He showed just why he was a pre-series favorite to win Finals MVP with a stellar game—38 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and no turnovers. He appeared to have little trouble scoring whether it was shooting from deep (he was 3-6 from three-point range) or driving the lane.
Oh—and he played pretty good defense when he was on LeBron James too (James had eight of Cleveland’s 20 turnovers).
While Durant may take the early lead for Finals MVP, Steph Curry is not letting him have it without a fight. Curry chipped in 28 points (including six of 11 shot from three-point range), ten assists, and six rebounds.
If there is anything the Warriors could improve upon, it is the contribution from the supporting cast. Klay Thompson continued to struggle with his shot (3-16; 0-5 from three-point range), and Draymond Green did as well (3-12). No one other than Curry and Durant scored in double figures and the bench only provided 24 total points.
Were they able to count on Curry and Durant playing at such a high level, then it wouldn’t matter if the supporting cast didn’t score much. But Curry has had cold spells during games. Durant has had plenty of games where he has struggled with his shot as well.
Should Durant and Curry both go cold, the Warriors are in trouble.
But the Warriors acquired Durant so that the team could not only survive one of its superstars going cold, but to make it harder for teams to defend them. Cleveland tried hard in Game One to spread the floor and take away the three-pointer. But in the process, they left lanes to the basket wide open for Durant to exploit–which he did.
Should they close them down in Game Two, Cleveland will have to count on Curry simply having a bad night. If they can’t put a defender in his face because they are too concerned about Durant driving on them, Curry is going to have a field day.
If they should get lucky and Curry does have an off-night, they will need to do something they struggle with in Game One—make shots of their own. Kevin Love was a dreadful 4-13 from the floor (15 points, 21 rebounds). James didn’t have a great night either (9-20) but recorded a double-double (28 points, 15 rebounds). Kyrie Irving chipped in 24 points (10-22 from the floor).
Cleveland will have plenty of time to come up with whatever adjustments they need to make. Game Two is Sunday night at 8 PM ET on ABC.