The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors met for the third straight year in the NBA Finals. This clash was inevitable as the Cavs cruised through the East with a 12-1 record and the Warriors wiped out the West winning all twelve games.
Game One featured amazing individual play. Thunderous slams, threes swishing, and crisp passing defined the game. Golden State's Kevin Durant poured in 38 easy points on 26 field goal attempts. He added 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and didn't register a turnover. Stephen Curry added 28 points on 6 for 11 shooting from downtown. He added 10 assists and 6 rebounds.
LeBron James of the Cavs, making his seventh straight Finals, scored 28 , grabbed 15 points, and 8 assists. Both he and Durant had monster dunks, but LeBron turned the ball over 8 more times. Kyrie Irving, one of the best ball handlers and finishers int he game, scored 24 points, but took 22 field goal attempts. Kevin Love yanked down 21 rebounds and scored 15 points.
While the stars were shining bright, this game was defined by the Warriors depth. Draymond Green had his usual strong all-around game with 9 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 steals. Klay Thompson shot poorly, but played goo defense on Irving. Andre Iguodala added 7 key points off the ench. And the centers played well: Zaza Pachulia scored 8 points in 14 minutes and JaVale McGee had one huge block and two jams in just five minutes.
Golden State turned the ball over just 4 times. Meanwhile, the Cavs' role players struggled. Starters Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith combined for 3 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 50 minutes. Deron Williams and Kyle Korver played a combined 37 scoreless minutes. Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, and Dahntay Jones did score, but it was too late. The Warriors had pulled 20 points ahead in the second half.
The Cavs did it to themselves.Sure, they committed 20 turnovers, but they lost because of porous defense.Twice, Durant, a former MVP and 4-time scoring champ, was permitted to dribble casually down the court and dunk without a Cav anywhere near him. Inside, the blue jersey scampered out to the three point line to guard the shooters, forgetting the elementary rule of transition defense: Stop the ball!
The number of open Warrior threes and dunks should embarrass Cleveland. In Game One of the NBA Finals, the Cavs defensive intensity and focus was more akin to a the tail end of a 4 games in 5 nights mid-January regular season game.
Golden State won 113-91 to land the first blow in the Finals rubber match.