We’ve waited 348 days for Part III of this NBA Finals match-up between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. While Kevin Durant has waited five years to get back to the Finals, and he did not waste time getting reacquainted.
It was clear the nerves were there for Durant as he missed some early lay-ups, but once he got a few shots to go in there was no looking back. Durant would go on to score 23 of his 38 points in the first half with a slew of rimming rattling fast break dunks. And the Golden State Warriors would go on to take game one with a final score of 113-90.
Both teams opened up the game with some sloppy and rushed offensive plays. Zaza Pachulia had two wide-open layups, which he passed on and led to tough contested shots, while the Cavs had some missed opportunities of their own.
But things would settle down and both teams would go on to trade buckets for a very thrilling first quarter, which ended with an Andre Iguodala buzzer-beating three.
The Warriors as great as they are on the offensive end rarely get enough credit for how amazing they are defensively. So a key to this series would be how they matched up defensively on the Cavs. The most obvious match-up early on was Klay Thompson a great two-way player, guarding Kyrie Irving.
The Cavs early on looked to counter the Warriors defensive alignments and take advantage of Stephen Curry on the defensive end. They put Curry in many early pick and roll situations where he would have to switch on to either Kyrie or LeBron, which usually led to a score or an assist.
The Cavs on the other hand, had their own clear agenda on the defensive end, do not let the Warriors get hot from three-point range. On multiple occasions they allowed easy fast break points by leaving the paint wide open to go cover someone on the three point line. A strategy they would abandon in the second half.
LeBron handled most of the scoring in the first half going into halftime with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but he also had seven turnovers. Turnovers played a huge role in this game one victory for the Warriors, as they would force the Cavs into 20 turnovers 12 of which came in the first half.
Although the Warriors would go on great scoring runs in the first half, the Cavs would go into halftime only down eight points. But that deficit would grow quickly when the second half began.
The Warriors opened the second half on a 13-0 run with two three-pointers by Steph Curry that gave his team a 21-point lead early in the third quarter. Curry in the last two NBA Finals received heavy criticism for his lack of production, and early on it seemed like the trend would continue. But after a few early misses, Curry would find his stroke and would end the game with 28 points making six three-pointers.
LeBron who finished with 28 points plus 15 rebounds and Kyrie, who finished with 24 points, received very little help from Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and the Cavs bench. Love who made two early threes finished the night with 15 points on 4 of 13 shooting while Thompson did not score at all and only grabbed four rebounds.
There was little concern for the Warriors in this game one as they shot 43% from the field and forced the Cavs into 20 turnovers. But this game could have gotten even more out of hand had Draymond Green and Klay Thompson been able to produce more offensively.
Both Thompson and Green were magnificent on the defensive end, making every shot tough for whichever Cavs player they were guarding. But they could not get in a groove on offense; they combined for 15 points on 6 of 28 from the field. Klay’s struggles in these playoffs have become a huge storyline but he has not let that affect his play on defense, which will be key in these NBA Finals.
The Cavs will need to take a look at how they will defend Kevin Durant who torched them for 38 points and is determined to get his first NBA title. Game Two will take place on Sunday June 4th at 8p.m., where the Cavs will try and bounce back from their game one lose.