Warriors’ bench key to Game One win
Entering Game 1 of the NBA Finals, much of the focus for the Warriors had been on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Both men averaged a combined 50.6 points during the playoffs, including 56 (36 for Steph, 21 for Thompson) in Golden State’s Game 7 win over the OKC Thunder.
Their offensive explosion did not continue in Game 1, yet the Warriors were able to win comfortably due in a large part to Golden State’s bench, which outscored the Cavaliers unit 45-10.
Kevin Love got the Cavaliers off to a good start, draining his three-point attempt for the first score of the game.
Neither side played up to its potential in the opening quarter, highlighted by two 24-second shot clock violations by the Cavaliers, and Golden State’s “Big Three” (Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green) combining to shoot just three-of-10 from the field.
The Warriors bench, led by Shaun Livingston who scored a playoff-career high 20 points, started to influence the match in the second game.
Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa and Livingston were able to add eleven points off the bench and helped extend Golden State’s lead to nine points going into the half time break.
Cleveland’s own “Big Three” (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Love) hit back in the third quarter as the visitors reduced the margin to six points.
The Cavaliers were able to switch better defensively (who guards who) and attacked the rim with much more ferocity, leading to open layups and foul shots.
A scuffle nearly broke out late in the third as Matthew Dellavedova inadvertently hit Iguodala ‘below the belt’ after an attempt to intentionally foul him.
The foul seemed to reinvigorate the Warriors, who scored 15 consecutive points between the end of the third and start of the fourth, pushing its lead out to 14 points.
The home side used the run to seize control of the match, as Curry and Thompson sealed the win after both hitting a three-pointer within 30 seconds, with just over two minutes to go.
In order to stay in touch in Game 2, the Cavaliers will need a much better shooting performance, as they hit just 38 per cent of its shots.
Despite scoring a game-high 26 points, Kyrie Irving shot a lower percentage, hitting just seven-of-22 shots and will need to improve if Cleveland are to have any chance of heading back home with a 1-1 series draw.