The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors finally took the court Thursday night to start the highly anticipated rematch of last year’s NBA Finals series. But the end result might have disappointed a few people. Here are a few takeaways that I noticed from the first game of the series.
1. The Cavs are in a lot of trouble if Curry and Thompson find their strides
Game One was mostly played without the volume shooting and scoring by the Warriors’ two best shot makers: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Together, they combined to score the least amount of points between the two this season (in which both played).
That’s a frightening number for LeBron James and his Cavs. It means that Golden State was able to dominate the game solely relying on role players and the playmaking of forward Draymond Green. Shaun Livingston, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala were all key cogs in building up multiple double-digit leads, which led to a fifteen point victory.
But don’t expect Curry and Thompson to disappoint two games in a row. Don’t expect two of the greatest shooters ever to total just four threes in thirteen tries. And don’t expect it to get easier for the Cavaliers as the series goes on. Golden State merely touched the tip of the iceberg last night.
2. Expect a lot more Pick-and-Roll action from Golden State
It’s no secret that Kyrie Irving is a bad defender. It’s also no secret that Kevin Love, while he actually looked decent on that end Thursday night, is bad defender, too.
So, with that in mind, expect a lot of Curry/Green pick-and-roll action. The combination itself against any team is lethal, with Curry’s ability to hit the long-range if the defenders don’t switch and his ability to take a big off the dribble if they do, and with Green’s playmaking skills on the loose if they double Curry.
Keeping in mind the fact that Irving and Love, two putrid defenders for the most part, are trying to guard what is practically unguardable, the Cavs have themselves a nightmare situation. That in turn will signal Dubs head coach Steve Kerr to notify his players — Curry, Green — to continue to exploit those mismatches
3. The Cavs need more Mozgov
Following up on the last point is a need for an increased role for Timofey Mozgov.
Mozgov was the second best player in the Finals for Cleveland last year (mind you that they didn’t have Irving or Love healthy at that point). This season, however, he’s been used as merely just a bench warmer. He doesn’t fit in with the style of play that these “new and improved” Cavs tout.
But they’re going to need him in this series. Mozgov is the best rim protector the Cavs have, and in the halfcourt defense, they’re going to need him challenging shots and checking cutters. Especially with so many of Golden State’s pick-and-roll sets, Cleveland will need a guy to challenge the guard and/or roller on their way to the rim.
If they don’t put in a rim protector, we’ll see more of the same dominance in the paint that we did in Game One. However, if Tyronn Lue has the guts to play Mozgov (to LeBron’s dismay), we could see a difference in the outcome of Game Two.