NBA Finals: Takeaways From Game 1

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“2013 Golden State Warriors” by Michael Tipton are licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals is in the books. The Golden State Warriors crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 113-91 victory on their home court. The Warriors came out and put on a show for the home crowd, leaving Cleveland behind in the series once again. They simply outplayed the Cavaliers.

Although the Warriors are up 1-0, they can’t get comfortable after what happened last year. They still have to win 3 more games to take home the title, but after seeing the Warriors destroy Cleveland last night, here are my takeaways from game 1:

1. Kevin Durant isn’t letting this championship slip away

Durant was the best player in game 1 by far. He scored 38 points (10 more than any other player), grabbed 8 rebounds, and assisted on 8 shots. He shot 53.8% from the field, while shooting 50% on three pointers. The dominance by Durant in this game showed me how serious he is about winning a championship. He’s been close to a title twice in his career. The first time he lost to LeBron’s then Miami Heat, while the second time he lost a chance at the Finals after blowing a 3-1 lead against his now Golden State Warriors. After dominating game 1, I can tell that he’s not letting this opportunity to win his first NBA championship slip away from him.

2. The Warriors defense is too good

The Warriors shut down one of the best offensive units in the NBA. They forced Cleveland to commit 20 turnovers, 12 of those being steals. Those 20 turnovers resulted in the Warriors getting 20 more shots than Cleveland. They held the Cavs to 34.9% shooting. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love all scored in double figures, but not a single player outside of those three scored more than 9 points. It’s expected that Cleveland’s big three will get their points every game, but Cleveland can’t win if they don’t get contributions from the rest of their team.

3. Cleveland’s defense is as bad as we thought it was

The story with the Cavs for much of the regular season was how bad their defense was. They ranked 21st in defensive efficiency. Those defensive problems were covered up in the playoffs after Cleveland went 11-1 on their way to another NBA Finals. In game 1, those problems were once again exposed. The Cavs looked confused on defense the entire game. They allowed Kevin Durant easy points several times. Durant had several uncontested dunks because the Cavs defenders couldn’t decided between defending him or the guy on the perimeter. I saw a defense that didn’t communicate and didn’t really try.

4. There’s no desperation for the Cavs

The Cavaliers played this game like they were expecting to lose. I didn’t see a real effort from a single Cavs player, including LeBron James. LeBron has put up incredible numbers against this Warriors team in the last two Finals, but I didn’t see that from him this game. Even though LeBron scored 28 points, he was trying too hard to pass the ball and defer to his teammates. Most of the time it resulted in a turnover. Kyrie Irving, one of the best ball handlers in the league, was also careless with the ball. Several times I saw him attempt to drive in the lane, but then he lost his handle, resulting in more turnovers. I didn’t see a Cavs team who was playing for a championship like I saw in last year’s Finals. Maybe this loss will spark something in the Cavs. If the Cavs want to bring a second title to Cleveland, they need to start playing like they want it.

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