Cleveland’s Big 3 must be sharper for Cavs to have a chance – USA TODAY
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USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt offers his immediate reaction to the Warriors’ game 1 victory over the Cavaliers at home.
OAKLAND – Cleveland’s Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined for 66 points, and Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson scored 20 points on 8-of-27 shooting.
Given those numbers, the Cavaliers would like their chances to win.
But Game 1 of the NBA Finals was a perfect example of the box score both telling the story and not giving a complete accounting of what transpired.
The Warriors won 104-89 on Thursday as Cleveland had offensive and defensive breakdowns that were not as apparent in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The NBA waited a year to see what a healthy Love and Irving along with James could do against the Warriors. The Cavs found out and the answer was not good in the series-opener. The Big Three were fine – 23-of-60 shooting from the field – but not special enough to steal the game.
Entering the start of the Finals as the hottest offensive team in the postseason, especially from three-point range, the Cavaliers shot 38.1% from the field and 33.3% on threes.
The Cavaliers’ ball movement that had opponents scrambling was missing, and even though Irving scored 26 points, he was just 7-of-22 from the field with too much one-on-one basketball.
“Offensively, we’ve got to be much better,” James said. “We’ve got to be much better moving the ball, moving bodies. They’re a great team when you just hold the ball and pound the ball. So we’ve got to do a better job with that, which Coach (Tyronn) Lue and the coaching staff will make sure we do in Game 2.”
The Cavaliers also committed 17 turnovers leading to 25 Warriors’ points, and Golden State’s bench outscored Cleveland’s 45-10.
“We will have a better game plan going into Game 2 for sure offensively,” James said. “Sometimes your offense dictates your defense, and the fact that we had 17 turnovers and that led to 25 points is not a good ingredient for our offense for sure.
The Cavs have work to do between now and Game 2 against the best offensive and defensive team they’ve faced in the playoffs.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the film session and seeing ways we can get better going into Game 2, and I think our team will as well,” James said.
But it just wasn’t offensive issues. Even though the Cavs contained Curry and Thompson, they failed to limit other players such as Shaun Livingston (20 points), Andre Iguodala (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists) and Leandro Barbosa (11 points in 11 minutes).
Golden State scored 54 points in the paint, and defensive lapses led to open shots and easy baskets at the rim. The Cavs were not ready for Golden State’s player and ball movement.
“In transition we just have to match up with them,” Love said. “We had breakdowns when we needed to get stops. We definitely have to look at the film and clean that up. We felt we did a good job on the perimeter, but some of the transition attacks that they hit ahead ultimately helped them to keep pushing the lead up.”
And if all that weren’t bad enough for the Cavs, Lue, who has been strong in his first season as a head coach, didn’t have his best playoff game. His rotations were not perfect, and he had James and Love on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter when Golden State had a 74-68 lead. By the time Love re-entered, it was a 12-point deficit and when James went back in, the Warriors were up 84-70.
“We’ll be better next game,” Lue said.