Well, that was ugly. The offense was stagnant, and Tyronn Lue diverted from the rotation schedule that had worked so well throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The defense overreacted to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson cutting off the ball, leading to many wide open shots at the rim. And, of course, there was the 16-32 shooting on two-pointers outside the restricted area thanks largely to Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa, who always seem to get hot against the Cavs.
There are several positives to draw from this game, however.
Curry and Thompsom
The Splash Bros combined for just 20 points, their lowest of the season by far. The previous low was 29, and six of their points in this game occurred on a pair of late threes with the game already out of reach.
The Cavs dominated the boards. 35 percent offensive rebound percentage, and 80 percent on the defensive side. Both elite numbers.
Much higher than usual for Cleveland, and much lower than usual for Golden State. That is unlikely to continue throughout the series.
Defensive shot distribution
They took 28 shots in the restricted area, 32 twos outside the restricted area and 27 threes. That's a 32 - 37 - 31 distribution. Their normal shot distribution is 33 - 31 - 36. They shot about where the Cavs' defense wanted them to.
There are also several negatives:
Cavs' three-point attempts
I understand this is partly because J.R. Smith hurt his hand early in the game, but 21 attempts is one of the lowest totals of the season. Simply unacceptable. The Cavalier offense had been producing an unprecedented volume of three point shots before this series. Why the drastic change in philosophy? Golden State is a good defensive team, but this seems like an overreaction to their transition game. I'd rather let Curry and Thompson hit a few transition threes than completely alter the style of play that has simply dominated every defense the Cavs have faced.
The Cavs finished 17-35 in the restricted area. This, too, is unacceptable. If the Cavs finished at their normal rate they would have scored an additional 10 or 12 points. I think that might've helped out.
A lack of clarity regarding who should cover Steph and Klay on off ball cuts led to many easy buckets. Often three guys would follow them, leaving the lane wide open. And sometimes in the pick and roll nobody would rotate to the paint to cover the wide open rolling big man.
It's probably very difficult to simulate the Warriors' style of play in practice. They have unique personnel and skill sets. So perhaps the Cavaliers simply needed a game to adjust to their style of play. And it wasn't terrible. There were many really good defensive possessions, and even good concepts on some of the broken plays where one missed rotation cost them what was otherwise a quality defensive possession.
And even for all that, Golden State didn't score all that efficiently, with a PPP just a little above their norm. If Cleveland's offense is clicking, it might've won this game in spite of the numerous defensive lapses. Don't blame the defense entirely. The Cavs absolutely are going to have to win a couple games with Golden State scoring around this level if they want to take this series.
That's all I've got. I think the Cavs will come out strong in game two, and it will be a much cleaner game for them. Some things will regress negatively for the Warriors (mid-range), but others positively (Splash Bros), so I'd expect their efficiency to be in the same ball park, but maybe just a couple ticks lower. If that's the case, it would be a very winnable game for the Cavaliers. Their offense simply has to go out there and take it.
Here are a few of the stats from the game:
89 points on 89 possessions, 1.00 PPP [League average = 1.04 PPP] (Cavaliers' season average = 1.08 PPP)
2P: 25-63, 40 percent [29-60, 49 percent] (28-54, 51 percent)
3P: 7-21, 33 percent [9-24, 35 percent] (11-30, 36 percent)
FT: 18-20, 90 percent [18-23, 76 percent] (16-22, 75 percent)
TS: 48 percent [54 percent] (56 percent)
OReb: 18-51, 35 percent [24 percent] (25 percent)
Ast: 17 on 32 FG, 53 percent [58 percent] (59 percent)
Tov: 15 on 89 possessions, 17 percent [15 percent] (14 percent)
104 points on 91 possessions, 1.14 PPP [League average = 1.04 PPP] (Warriors' season average = 1.12 PPP)
2P: 34-60, 57 percent [29-60, 49 percent] (30-56, 53 percent)
3P: 9-27, 33 percent [9-24, 35 percent] (13-32, 42 percent)
FT: 9-10, 90 percent [18-23, 76 percent] (17-22, 76 percent)
TS: 57 percent [54 percent] (59 percent)
DReb: 9-44, 20 percent [24 percent] (24 percent)
Ast: 29 on 43 FG, 67 percent [58 percent] (68 percent)
Tov: 9 on 91 possessions, 10 percent [15 percent] (15 percent)
Players of the game
1. LeBron James - 23 points on 50 percent true shooting, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 4 turnovers.
2. Kyrie Irving - 26 points on 48 percent true shooting, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers.
3. Kevin Love - 17 points on 50 percent true shooting, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 turnovers.