One of the nice things about having a week leading into the third consecutive matchup in the NBA Finals is that we were able to break down this series at every possible angle. We were able to lay out the roadmap for a Cavaliers upset, and Game 1 confirmed most of what we thought going in.
Here’s what we learned last night (that we already knew.)
1. The Cavaliers cannot lose the possession battle
The Warriors got up 20 more shots than the Cavaliers in this game. Cleveland turned the ball over twenty times, got zero steals and allowed 14 offensive rebounds.
The Cavaliers have a ton of talent, but they’ll have a tough time competing in this series even if they put up the same total amount of shots in a game. The Warriors just have more firepower. Cleveland did their damndest on the offensive boards, snagging 15. But letting the Warriors snag 24 percent of their own misses while only turning it over twice is a disaster, and it manifested in a blowout loss.
2. Kevin Love has to punish the Warriors on mismatches
Kevin Love finished with a perfectly impressive 15 points and 21 rebounds but he really failed to put his stamp on the game when he had the chance. The Warriors switched Klay Thompson onto him with glee and he failed to make them pay. Love finished 2-8 on contested field goals and he missed several bunnies that killed the Cavaliers offensive momentum.
The key to beating the Warriors is to destabilize their switch-happy defense. That’s really hard to do if you can’t win those mismatches. The Dubs don’t have to scramble, and you get baited into turnovers. Love simply has to win that matchup enough to force Golden State to scramble.
3. Kevin Durant was the poison pill the Cavaliers chose to take
There was always a chance the Cavaliers wouldn’t throw a ton of bodies at KD, choosing instead to allow him to get loose as the expense of the Warriors offensive flow. Well, they...kind of did. Durant went off for 38 points on 14-26 shooting. The problem was that the numbers burned them and the Cavaliers transition defense was awful. Durant got at least three wide open dunks in transition when a Cavs defender dove towards a shooter in the corner.
They need to take away the easy stuff from Durant and at least make him work. Part of this is a symptom from the Cavaliers turnover issue, but on balance, they can’t let Durant go this crazy, especially given the fact that he had a great game as a playmaker as well. It’s too easy, and the Cavaliers have to fix it.
While it’s easy to overreact to Game 1 confirming some of the concerns about this series, Cleveland isn’t cooked just yet. They were completely out of sorts in Game 1 last year and that even extended to Game 2. The Cavs don’t have the same margin of error as they did last year, so a 3-1 lead could be insurmountable.
With that said, they still have a real chance to fix what they did wrong and get better performances from their supporting cast and make this a series. Game 2 tips off Sunday night. Let’s see what Tyronn Lue can cook up.