The highly anticipated Game 1 of this year’s juggernaut of a NBA Finals was a one-sided affair. The Golden State Warriors, despite a rusty start, never lost control of a game that they would go on to win by 23 points. Pundits are now saying this series would be lucky to go five games; however, after last year’s finals I’m hesitant to completely count Cleveland out. But their chances definitely do not look good. Yes, it has been only one game, but I believe there were a number of aspects from last night that were very telling. Let’s take a look at what we learned from Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Kevin Durant is happy to be back in the NBA Finals
It’s been five long years since Kevin Durant last played in the NBA Finals and it has been a long time coming. In 2012, Durant (despite averaging 30 points a game) and his OKC Thunder conceded to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in just five games. Now, Durant is back with a vengeance. In Game 1, Durant scored 38 points on 53% shooting to go along with 9 rebounds. But perhaps the most impressive part of his performance last night was his ability to facilitate the basketball. Durant’s 8 assists were a testament to how much his court vision and playmaking ability has improved since 2012. The Warriors are going to be near impossible to beat with Kevin Durant scoring and finding the open man at will.
Don’t forget about Steph Curry
Steph Curry’s past two NBA Finals performances have been the bane to his excellence. This year’s playoffs saw Curry on a mission, averaging 28 points per game on 50% shooting. He rode that momentum into last night as he disproved naysayers by scoring 28 points on 50% shooting and shooting 6 for 11 from three. Don’t get me wrong, last night was Kevin Durant’s game. But let’s not overlook Steph Curry, as he is still one of the game’s best scorers and is determined to mend his previous finals performances.
No Thompson, no Green, no problem
Offensively speaking, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were not themselves last night. The two combined for 20 points on an abysmal 6 for 28 shooting. In fact, something has been up with Klay Thompson this whole playoffs, as he was averaging a meager 11 points per game on 38% shooting going into the NBA Finals. These are two of the team’s leading offensive weapons who have been AWOL. However, it didn’t even matter. The Warriors still went on to easily win by 23 points! That is how dangerous the Warriors are; they possess a seemingly endless supply of offensive power. Imagine if Durant, Curry, Green, and Thompson were all on last night? They might have won by 50!
How important the presence of a big man is for GSW
In last year’s NBA Finals, I felt that many people overlooked the effect of Andrew Bogut’s injury on the Warriors. Without him, the Warriors went up against the Cavaliers undersized and thus struggled protecting the rim and securing rebounds. However, this year is a different story with the addition of height in Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, and JaVale McGee. Compared to last year, the Warriors look way more adept at interior defense and owning the glass, one of the key factors to their victory in Game 1. Tristan Thompson, who was a dominant force in the previous two finals, scored 0 points and had just four rebounds last night.
LeBron James can’t do it all
Leading up to this series, I heard many people say that if LeBron James plays well, how can the Cavaliers lose? After all, he is the greatest player on the planet? Yes, LeBron is the greatest player in the league, but if last night was any indication, he can’t win this series by himself. Despite scoring 28 points to go along with 15 rebounds and 8 assists, LeBron James’ effort wasn’t enough to will his team to a victory. In fact, all members of Cleveland’s big three played well as Kyrie Irving contributed 24 points, while Kevin Love had 15 points and 21 rebounds. Either the Cavs secondary players are going to have to step up or James, Love, and Irving are going to have to combine to score about 90 points for them to defeat the Warriors.
Cavaliers will be swept if they continue to be careless with the basketball
This is really simple. The Cavs committed 20 turnovers and the Warriors committed just 4. You cannot give a team with four all-stars and two MVPs extra opportunities to score the basketball. Some of the blame rightfully falls into the lap of LeBron James, who turned the ball over 8 times last night. Problems arose when LBJ tried to force things to happen rather than take what the defense was giving to him. The latter is what made him one of the league’s most prolific players, while the former gets him into trouble.
The Warriors may have broken the NBA*
I put the asterisk because I don’t fully believe this yet, but the writing is on the wall. If Game 1 is any indication on where this series is going, the Warriors have a very high chance to finish this postseason 16-0. The Cavaliers, who also decimated their opponents on the way to this finals series, were believed to be the only team with the ability to compete with Golden State, but now that might not even be true. If the Warriors do end up winning this series without much resistance, I worry about the future of the NBA. How will teams find a way to compete with the Warriors? Let’s hope that this is not a legitimate problem, but only time will tell.