Although it may be a microcosm for the performance of the team in an entire final’s series, the first game of the 2016 NBA finals was a rocky one for the men of the Wine and Gold.
A severe lack of bench scoring and minimal output by key team members led to the Cleveland Cavaliers dropping the game 104-89 to the Golden State Warriors. Golden State only really seemed to be challenged mid-way through the third, when Cleveland took its first and only lead of the game.
45 bench points by the Warriors, 20 of which came from veteran guard Shaun Livingston, and just nine team turnovers made easy work of a fully healthy Cleveland squad. After having so many hopes running high that the starters were at full power this year, it would seem the Cavs are in trouble after the opening frame of the finals.
While the Cavaliers have had a tendency to bounce back from ugly losses all season, it is worth noting how impressive the Warriors home record has been.
Golden State is 39-2 at Oracle Arena this season, and has more than once pummeled teams in back-to-back appearances.
In order to regain momentum and even the series at one apiece, there has to be more output from shooting guard JR Smith and the bench. Combined, the entire bench and Smith only picked up 13 of Cleveland’s 89 points. Channing Frye, picked up by Cleveland earlier in the season to solidifying the bench with a scoring big man at power forwards, played just seven minutes.
During that time, he missed the only shot he took, grabbed only one rebound, and made two free throws.
If the Cavs want to make a bigger impact tonight, the Smith and Frye have to pick up more points in Game 2. Forward Lebron James had an overall solid performance, and was only one assist shy of a triple-double.
Look for point guard and unanimous MVP Steph Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson to return to form in the next game. Combined, the Splash Brothers had just 20 points, a fairly anemic number compared to the numbers put up by the team during the course of the season.
The Cavaliers will look to correct the mistakes of Game 1, the biggest being guarding Curry and Thompson, but forgetting about the rest of the team.
Although the competition will be close, it seems the momentum earned by the Warriors paired with the success they have had at home spells trouble for Cleveland.
Game 2 prediction: Golden State 111, Cleveland 101.
Depending on if the Cavs fight back or experience another night of head scratching performances will dictate the rest of the finals.
If the Warriors do pull ahead 2-0, it would most likely lead to the end of the title hopes to ‘Believeland,’ and could very well drive James out of Cleveland once again.
But, if the Cavaliers claw their way back, look for fireworks when the Warriors come to Cleveland.
All eyes will be on Game 2, which is slated for June 5 at 9 p.m at Oracle Arena