CLEVELAND -- The Golden State Warriors certainly came out like a team ready to erase the memory of and eliminate the sting from losing last year’s NBA Finals after building a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers, only to be on the wrong side of an historic comeback.
On the strength of 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from small forward Kevin Durant and 28 to go along with 10 helpers from point guard Stephen Curry, the Warriors fought their way to a 113-91 victory over the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California Thursday night.
Cleveland Cavaliers battle Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals
But despite the Game 1 setback, it is still a best-of-seven series, and here are five things the Cavaliers can correct in order to respond with a victory in Game 2.
TAKE CARE OF THE BALL
Turnovers hurt the Cavaliers in their Game 3 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, and they once again proved extremely costly in the loss to the Warriors.
The Cavaliers committed 20 turnovers, many of them unforced errors, and the Warriors responded by converting those extra possessions into 21 points, including eight miscues that led to 11 markers in the second half.
The Warriors committed just four turnovers, which resulted in only six Cavaliers points.
IMPROVE ON THE GLASS
The final box score had the Cavaliers ahead in the battle of the boards, 59-50, including a 15-14 edge on offense and 44-36 advantage on the defensive end of the floor, but the Warriors were far more effective at crashing the glass and securing extended possessions.
In the first quarter alone, the Warriors corralled eight offensive rebounds and turned them into 12 second-chance points.
For the game, Golden State scored 18 points on seven-of-15 shooting after pulling down their 14 offensive rebounds.
Between the turnovers and early struggles on the glass, the Cavaliers gave up 20 more shots than they took in Game 1.
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 beat Cleveland in every situational scoring category.
Thanks to several wide-open dunks from 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.
Cutting down on turnovers and improving on the boards will help the Cavaliers in their situational efforts.
Although the Cavaliers got double-doubles of points and rebounds from forwards LeBron James (28 points, 15 rebounds) and Kevin Love (15, 21), as well as 24 points from point guard Kyrie Irving, it was not enough to overcome the 20 turnovers or Golden State’s productivity in the key.
Outside of the 67 points “The Big Three” combined to score, the Cavaliers got just three more points out of the starting lineup on a triple from shooting guard J.R. Smith just two minutes into the game, and three of the seven reserves combined for 21 points.
Conversely, Golden State’s bench scored 24 points, and all but one of the reserves tallied at least one basket in the lopsided victory.
Since Tyronn Lue took over as head coach of the Cavaliers in January of 2016, the biggest points of emphasis on offense have been tempo and unselfishness, but neither were on Cleveland’s side 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 was indicative of the fact that Cleveland made only 30 of its 86 field goal attempts and 11 of its 31 looks from three-point range.
On those 30 made baskets, the Cavaliers handed out only 15 assists, while the Warriors were credited with 31 helpers on 45 baskets.