CLEVELAND -- Since Tyronn Lue took over as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers in January of 2016, the biggest points of emphasis on offense have been tempo and unselfishness, but they struggled to control either in a 113-91 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena Thursday night.
The Cavaliers struggled to get out in transition, and when opportunities presented themselves, they made just two of their 12 looks on the fast break, which further signified their struggles, as they converted only 30 of their 86 field goal attempts and 11 of their 31 three-point tries.
On those 30 made baskets, the Cavaliers handed out only 15 assists, while the Warriors were credited with 31 helpers on 45 baskets.
“That's part of our game,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “That's part of our game. It's what got us here, so we definitely want to be more in the 20s in assists, but that's what got us here, and we’ve got to be able to make shots.
“We’ve got to be able to move the ball. We know that, but playing iso ball has helped us get to this point, and it gave us success in the last three years. We don't want to have a high steady diet of it because the defense becomes stagnant and our players become stagnant, but that's part of our package.”
Cleveland Cavaliers battle Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals
Winning the games within the game has been a strength of the Cavaliers throughout the 2017 NBA Playoffs, but the opposite was true against the Warriors, who won every situational scoring category in the Game 1 win over Cleveland.
Thanks to several wide-open dunks from small forward Kevin Durant, the Warriors outpaced the Cavaliers, 56-30, in the paint. Also, the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers, 18-13, in second-chance situations, and, 27-9, on the fast break.
“We’ve got to stop the ball in transition,” James said. “There were a few times where we fanned out to the three-point line and let guys just go right down the middle for a dunk, and I believe, K.D. had two or three of those.
“When you turn the ball over, you’ve got to know that that's their best. That's when they become very dangerous because those guys, they sprint down the lane, they sprint to the three-point line, they put a lot of pressure on your defense, but the ball is the number one thing. We’ve got to stop the ball first, and then, fan out to the three-point line if those guys go there.”
Although Game 1 was not the start to the NBA Finals the Cavaliers had hoped for, they are putting the loss in the rearview mirror and setting their focus squarely on Sunday night’s Game 2 matchup, which offers the chance to even up the best-of-seven series at 1-1 heading into Game 3 in Cleveland next week.
“Just to be themselves and do what they have done throughout the course of the season, throughout the course of the last couple years,” James said of his advice to teammates. “Play with energy, play with effort, play with their minds and their bodies and understand what we're trying to accomplish.
“This is The Finals, and we don't care about making mistakes, just play as hard as you can and follow the game plan, have your mind in it. And if your mind is fresh and your mind is into it, then a lot of things take care of itself.”