Nearly 24 hours removed from a forgetful Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals, there is plenty to discuss about what went wrong for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
To start off, the first quarter was entertaining to watch. Both teams immediately came out and attempted to establish a physical presence and the referees largely let the physical play go, which made the first 12 minutes even better to watch. LeBron James made a few typical “LeBron plays” and kept the Cavs in the game early, and after one were just down five points.
However, the problems that the Cavs would face began to emerge early in the game.
For one, the Cavs could not gain the early edge on the glass and were seemingly beat to every 50/50 ball in the first quarter. For the game Cleveland did out-rebound Golden State 59-50, but the failure to dominate the rebounding category early on would cost the Cavs greatly.
Next, the Cavs struggled on the defensive end and that was evident almost immediately. It appeared that Golden State was almost free to go as they please on the offensive end and the threat of their deadly shooters caused hesitation on the Cavs end and resulted in many easy looks for the Warriors.
Finally, the one thing you cannot do against a team such as Golden State is turn the ball over, but that is something the Cavs could not avoid. On separate occasions LeBron would drive the lane and look to dish the ball to a shooter standing beyond the arc, but numerous times made ill-advised passes that led to run outs and easy buckets for the Warriors.
Overall in Game 1 Golden State committed just four turnovers, while the Cavs coughed up the ball 20 times, eight of those were James’ responsibility. Cleveland was also the first team in NBA Finals history to not record a steal. Not good signs for the Wine & Gold.
Shooting was also an issue that haunted the Cavs all game long. Kyrie Irving and LeBon were a combined 19-42 (45%) from the field. However the alarming issue is the fact that the rest of the team shot just 11-44 (25%) for the game and players such as Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and even Kevin Love struggled to score the ball and help out Ivring and James.
For the Cavs to come out on top in this series against the Warriors, Love has to play well, and a 4-13 start for just 15 points is not going to cut it. Although Love did make his presence felt on the glass and grabbed 21 rebounds, which only has been done by five other players in the Finals since 1984.
There was one specific moment that stood out and did not make sense while watching the game. During the early part of the second quarter the Warriors had their top two players, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, on the bench. This appeared to be an obvious instance where the Cavs needed to take advantage of, but instead had a lineup out on the floor that was less than ideal at cutting the deficit and regaining the lead.
If a situation such as this one presents itself in Game 2 and beyond, the Cavs need to strike immediately because not too often will you see both Durant and Curry on the bench at the same time in the Finals.
It is quite obvious what the Cavs need to do in order to get back into this series, but by no means does there need to be any sort of panic.
Game 1 was alarming but this Warriors team is a juggernaut and are out for revenge after last year’s NBA Finals. If Cleveland can cut back the number of turnovers they commit, dominate the boards early on and get contributions from players besides James and Irving, they should be in better shape for not only Game 2, but also the rest of the Finals series.
Expect their to be some changes and adjustments to the Cavs game plan because going down 0-2 would not be ideal against a Warriors team that looks hungry and determined to win what they let slip away last season. But this Cavs team thrives when adversity sets in, so it is reasonable to expect a different looking Cleveland team and an even more heightened sense of urgency on Sunday night.