Yes Golden State did win Game 1 but the series hasn’t started yet. It actually only begins when someone loses at home.
The Cavs went into Game 1 with a game plan heavy on ISO basketball to combat the beautiful style of up tempo transition, excellent ball and man movement and high pick and roll basketball played by the Warriors. It was ugly but effective and the Cavs should have won game 1 in Oakland….a place where the Warriors are now 47-3 this season and have been almost invincible. Had the Cavs made a couple more free throws, got out to shooters in transition a bit better late in the game they could have won Game 1 in Oakland.
Truth be told the loss of game 1 pales in comparison to the potential loss of Kyrie Irving, the dynamic playmaker who was excellent even whilst obviously playing injured. The problem with LBJ missing the game winner and Iman Shumpert follow-up attempt also falling short has less to do with the loss of the game but more the loss of Kyrie. He hurt his injured left knee again in OT and may not be available going forward. Either way somebody else will need to step up big for Cleveland if they plan on winning this series.
The bottom line is the Cavs controlled the tempo…controlled Steph and Klay for most of the game and were in control on the Warriors home court for the majority of the game. Up ten after 1 and up 3 at half but that doesn’t tell the story of how at the end of the 1st quarter the Warriors made a nice run punctuated by an Andre Igoudala two hand dunk to cut what should have been a 15 point lead to 10. Early into the 2nd quarter they had an 8-0 run and got the crowd involved and brought MVP Steph Curry to life when buried another baseline 3 which apparently he doesn’t ever miss in the playoffs.
Nearing halftime JR Smith hit a big 3 for the Cavs on another great out of bounds play drawn up by David Blatt but that would prove to be the last shot he hit all game. It was mostly excellent game planning by the Warriors staff to take away the Cavs shooters and not send a double at LBJ. He responded by scoring 44 points, living in the paint with his sidekick Kyrie Irving doing quite a bit of damage on the high ball screens and mid-range pull ups. This should have but didn’t make up for the lack of scoring by the other Cavs on the night. Shumpert, Delly, Smith and James Jones have to give the Cavs some shooting and LBJ some space to work. Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson showed up big for the Cavs on D and the glass as well as big Timo knocking down some huge free throws down the stretch to tie the game.
For the Warriors Draymond Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson made big plays and big shots down the stretch as did Harrison Barnes but if I were giving an MVP on the night it was without a shadow of a doubt Andre Igoudala who was immense for the Warriors hitting a couple of big 3’s and playing excellent D on LBJ on his way to 15 points himself and making Lebron take a tough contested step back J at the end of regulation.
The Warriors and Cavs statistically were almost identical and in a game that could have gone either way the Cavs lose game 1 on the road. Watching the chess match of coaches and players dealing with ball screens and cutters, ISO’s and one on one drives was great to see. I’ve watched a lot of basketball series and like a boxing match…..adjustments will be made by both teams and round 2 will be Sunday. Other guys will step up and some will step back but I am certain of this: LBJ and David Blatt feel like they may have let game 1 slip away but they learned a lot about how they will change their attack on both ends for game 2 as did Steph and Steve Kerr. Lebron has lost game 1 in the Finals on both occasions that he won Finals MVP and 2 rings (Ed: he also lost game 1 last year. The only time he won game 1 in the Finals was 2011 against Dallas). The series isn’t over yet….it actually hasn’t even started.