PUSKAS: Sky isn’t falling for Cavs ... yet
It’s Cleveland. You thought this long-awaited championship was going to come easy?
But all is not lost for the Cavaliers after a 104-89 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
The goal was always to win one of the first two games of the series at Oracle Arena in Oakland and the Cavs can still do that.
But there are reasons to be concerned.
One of the biggest is that the Warriors somehow survived their two top scorers both having what figures to be their worst games of the series. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 8 of 27 from the floor. Curry was 3 of 8 on 3-pointers and scored 11 points. Thompson was 1 of 5 from the perimeter and scored nine.
The Splash Brothers aren’t likely to shoot that poorly again — and even less likely to do so in the same game again. So losing Game 1 was a missed opportunity.
Cleveland didn’t shoot or defend well enough and got little from its bench.
The Big Three — LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — got their numbers. James just missed a triple-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Irving led all scorers with 26 points, but 11 came at the line and he was just 7 of 21 from the floor. Love had 17 points and 13 rebounds.
But James and Love didn’t get to the line much. James was 3 of 4 and Love made his only free-throw attempt. And that’s where another concern exists.
Have the Cavaliers fallen so deeply in love with the 3-pointers they rained on Atlanta and Toronto that their offense is now starting on the perimeter? They shot just 32 of 84, including just 7 of 21 from 3-point range.
A big part of what made them so effective on offense early in the playoffs was their ability to work inside and then outside for open looks.
It’s difficult to criticize James too much. He walks a fine line between taking over a game and being a facilitator. He can do both, but when the Cavaliers lose, his critics either say he wasn’t aggressive enough in going to the basket or he tried to do too much himself and didn’t do enough to get everyone else involved.
And that’s the other concern. The Cavaliers’ bench was outscored 45-10. Shaun Livingston alone doubled up Cleveland’s reserves, 20-10. Andre Iguodala (12 points) and Leandro Barbosa (11) also outscored the Cavaliers’ bench all by themselves.
The Cavs need significant contributions from J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert. Smith played more than 36 minutes in Game 1 and finished with 3 points and five fouls.
Those numbers are worrisome, but one statistic should have Cavs fans optimistic for Game 2. Since 2009, LeBron’s teams have lost Game 1 of a playoff series nine times. Those teams have won Game 2 every single time.
The Cavaliers need that trend to continue.
Write Vindicator Sports Editor Ed Puskas at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter, @EdPuskas_Vindy.