Last night, the Golden State Warriors dismantled the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-91 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Kevin Durant led the way with 38 points along with eight rebounds and eight assists on 14-26 shooting. Steph Curry was also a major factor in this Warriors’ victory after hitting six three-pointers on his way to scoring 28 points. As for the Cavaliers, LeBron scored 28 points while also grabbing 15 rebounds and Kevin Love had a solid game with 15 points and 21 boards.
With Game 1 in the books, one can reach several conclusions about various players as well as the NBA Finals as a whole.
Kevin Durant is Unguardable
In Game 1, Durant was guarded for the majority of the game by LeBron James, who has been regarded as a top tier defensive player since his entry to the NBA in 2003. Durant torched LeBron repeatedly on his way to his game-high 38 points. In defense of LeBron, I do not think anyone in the league can guard Durant man-to-man. He is a 6’9″ monster who can use his length to shoot over most defenders and has the quickness to blow past the rest. Durant, when he is consistently hitting his shots from the perimeter, might be the most difficult player in the entire league to guard and the Cavaliers found that out the hard way.
However, the Cavaliers’ defense in Game 1 was awful. The Warriors had numerous uncontested dunks and layups throughout the game and the Cavaliers had no answers. The Cavs forced a total of four turnovers for the entire game which is a recipe for disaster when dealing with a potent offense such as Golden State’s. If the Cavs want a realistic shot at winning this series, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love will need to do a better job at protecting the rim while LeBron forces Durant into more contested jumpshots from the perimeter.
If Durant continues to dominate like he did in Game 1, I can realistically see the Warriors sweeping the Cavs on their way to winning their second championship in the last three seasons.
Klay Thompson is Overrated
Prior to the NBA Finals, Draymond Green made headlines by claiming that his teammate Klay Thompson should have been on one of the All-NBA teams this season. Based on Game 1, Green is clearly wrong.
In Game 1, Klay Thompson scored six points on a pedestrian 3-16 shooting from the field. Surprisingly, this level of inefficiency is on par with his performance throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs. Despite not losing a playoff game this season, Thompson is only averaging 14.4 points per game on 38.3% shooting. Needless to say, those numbers are a tad low for someone who is allegedly an All-NBA quality player.
Despite his struggles on offense, Thompson has played solid defense and has helped Golden State be the most efficient team defense in the league according to teamrankings.com. However, his offensive struggles suggest a larger issue regarding Klay’s place in the NBA.
Game 1 showed that Klay Thompson is not an elite player in today’s NBA. Thompson is offensively a one-trick pony and that trick is the ability to come off screens and knock down threes at a ridiculously high rate. However, he cannot effectively create anything for himself off of the dribble and can therefore never get himself easy baskets and/or free throws.
Game 1 suggests, to me at least, that Klay Thompson is the fourth best player on the Warriors and that Draymond Green is the third best despite popular belief. The fact that the Warriors won by 22 points without any offensive contributions from Thompson suggest that he could be expendable in the future. If the Warriors can dominate the Cavs from start to finish without Thompson playing up to his usual standards, then maybe the Warriors could let him walk in a few seasons instead of giving him a max contract because they do not need him in order to win a title.
The Cavaliers’ Bench is Overrated
Game 1 confirmed that the Cavs will need significant contributions from their bench instead of solely relying on LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to carry them to another championship this season.
Besides Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert and Dahntay Jones, the Cavaliers’ bench scored zero points. That is unacceptable. With veterans Kyle Korver and Deron Williams on the roster, they need to be more aggressive on offense and knock down some threes. Korver, a three point marksman in the league, went 0-3 while Williams, a former All-Star, went 0-2.
In addition to his poor shooting, Deron Williams looked completely lost in Game 1. He appeared out of sync and struggled both offensively and defensively. He was badly outplayed by Ian Clark and Shaun Livingston. Williams committed several turnovers and personal fouls as he continues to look like a shell of his Utah self.
In the beginning of the second quarter, Durant and Curry both sat for the first four minutes and thirty four seconds. During that span, the Cavaliers were outscored by four points. That is an absolute travesty. The Cavaliers’ bench continued to give up fast break after fast break and Iguodala along with McGee threw down various dunks as a result.
If the Cavaliers want to win this series, their bench has to outscore the Warriors significantly when Curry and Durant are off the floor. If their bench continues to struggle, the Warriors will dominate the rest of the series and a four game sweep is a distinct possibility.