The Golden State Warriors won a tense, entertaining Game 1 of the NBA Finals. In what felt like a marathon, the Warriors overcame a double-digit first quarter deficit to win by a 108-100 score in overtime. This game resulted in various major developments. Kyrie Irving went down in overtime with an injury. LeBron James scored 44 points on 38 shots. Andre Iguodala had one of the best 15-point games in NBA history, playing superb defense on James on top of inputting energy into Golden State’s offense. In the end, Golden State escaped with not only the win, but with the huge prospect of winning in addition to Cleveland losing Irving.
For the Warriors, Stephen Curry was mostly his usual self. He dropped 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting. Klay Thompson‘s inefficient 5-for-14 display still totaled him 21 points. They and Iguodala were the team’s top three scorers. Despite limited offensive production from the rest of Golden State’s squad, the team played with tremendous intensity. Draymond Green battled against the bigger bodies of Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. Harrison Barnes made three triples including an overtime dagger that pushed Golden State’s lead to seven. With Irving down and Cleveland’s offensive attack looking baffled, overtime easily went the Warriors’ way.
On Cleveland’s end, there’s no way to view Irving’s setback as anything other than devastating. Even if he’s able to play in Game 2, it’s clear that he’s far from completely healthy, and aggravations seem inevitable whenever he’s on the floor. He had 23 points, seven boards, and six assists in his near 44 minutes of action, a number various pundits have questioned. Considering the severity of Irving’s numerous health issues, was it wise to burn him for about 44 minutes in Game 1? That’s something David Blatt will have to deal with.
What’s more, Cleveland is obviously already playing without Kevin Love. The “Big Three” for the Cavs might now be down to a “Lone One” in James. Even with his 44 points and slicing of the Warriors’ defense, his teammates weren’t involved enough. Iman Shumpert only had six points, and J.R. Smith‘s nine points accounted for all of Cleveland’s bench scoring. That’s a horribly unproductive number. Matthew Dellavedova, James Jones, or someone else will have to impact Game 2 with greater effectiveness.
Moving forward, the Warriors should feel outstanding about its placement in this series. Curry and Thompson have dodged their respective health bullets, a set of circumstances Cleveland is unable to claim. Despite a sluggish 19-point first quarter and various players failing to find an offensive rhythm, Golden State protected home court. More importantly, the team maintained a clean bill of health as the final seconds ticked away. This late in the season, this early in the NBA Finals, teams can’t overcome its best players going down. Cleveland lacks the depth of Golden State even with a full deck, and they also don’t possess the well-rounded scoring attack of its Bay Area counterpart.
Heading into Game 2, the Warriors’ biggest point of correction should be starting the game in a better fashion. Nerves can be pointed to since we’re talking about the NBA Finals, but Golden State has started multiple playoff games with low energy. Cleveland will simply require far better production from Shumpert and Smith. It’s difficult to imagine Cleveland winning this series without Smith playing near his peak. Stated bluntly, though, nothing Cleveland does will matter if Irving isn’t healthy. James can’t defeat Golden State by himself four times.
With the Warriors up 1-0 in the NBA Finals, Game 2 will be Sunday, 6/7 at 8:00 pm ET.