Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers was an absolute disaster for LeBron James and crew. From the opening tip the Warriors had one goal–unleash their new weapon–Kevin Durant.
While Durant had a monster game, there was more going on that may have sealed the outcome of the series as early as the first game.
Here are 3 takeaways from Game 1.
Why isn’t LeBron guarding Durant?
For a few possessions James and Durant went head up. If the Cavs stand any chance against this powerful offense, James must take it upon himself to shut Durant down. What other player on the Warriors deserves James attention? Kyrie Irving has Stephen Curry, J.R. Smith has Klay Thompson and Kevin Love has Draymond Green. So why has Tyronn Lue decided to go a different route? James has the foot speed to deal with a player like Durant but it does come at a cost. Durant is not Harrison Barnes or Jae Crowder, he’s a complete player and he has a chip on his shoulder. The way he attacked the game Thursday night may have scared LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lue doesn’t want James in foul trouble but if he’s not careful this could be 4-0 well before LeBron picks up his 6th foul.
Cleveland Cavaliers Big 3 put up numbers and lost by 20 with Green and Thompson struggling.
After the game, Cavs fans kept saying ” don’t worry, our team was cold”. Say what? Did they not watch the game or check the box score? James scored 28 points with 15 rebounds and 8 assists. Irving added 24 points and 3 assist and Love chipped in with 15 points and 21 rebounds. Yes, Tristan Thompson shot 0-3, Smith shot 1-4 and the bench was invisible. But why is everyone surprised? Hasn’t this been the issue all season? Wasn’t this the reason why LeBron went to the media crying about a playmaker? What’s scary is that, for as cold as the Cavs were, the Warriors were just as cold and still won by 20. What happens when Thompson finds his shot? He shot 3-16. Green shot 3-12 but did contribute stellar defense and rebounding despite getting two early fouls. The Cavs Big 3 played their normal game, however Curry and Durant just played theirs better.
This is not the same Warriors team from the last 2 NBA Finals.
Curry, Green and Thompson are all present but it’s a different mindset. From the opening tip Thompson wanted to focus on the defensive end. He took on the task of guarding James, then he switched over to Irving and at times he went toe-to-toe against Love. With Durant there to pick up the slack scoring wise, it gives Mike Brown the option of unleashing Thompson’s very underrated defensive skills on whoever. I saw at least 10 Cavaliers fans on social media say ” no big deal, remember what happened last year?”. Yes, the Cavs came back from a 3-1 hole to win the championship, however, this is not the same team they done that against. Last year, if Thompson and Green would have struggled this way the outcome would’ve been reversed. But Durant adds a different element to the Warriors that was missing in 2016. LeBron has to work now. No more relaxing on the defensive side due to Barnes. Durant will make him work both ends of the court. Last season was just that– last year.