2015 NBA Finals: Game 1 Recap

Javier Cortez, Contributor

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After a record nine days off, the Cavs and Warriors did not disappoint in game one of the 2015 NBA Finals. Since the game went into overtime, the last five minutes of painstakingly bad basketball by the Cavs might overshadow what was actually a really good game.

The huge contrast from the first 48 minutes and the last five minutes was a combination of fatigue on the Cavs’ part that led to poor offensive possessions and very good defense by the Golden State Warriors.

The first game of a series always reveals the answers to the big questions everyone was asking, and game one did just that.

Golden State isn’t concerned with LeBron scoring

Although LeBron nearly carried the Cavs home all by himself in game one, the Warriors proved why doubling down on LeBron would have been a bad idea. The proof is in the Cavs nine bench points. Usual recipients of wide open 3-pointers via LeBron James double teams, James Jones and Matthew Dellavedova were scoreless and had no impact on the game.

There could be some criticism regarding LeBron’s career high 38 field goal attempts, but the Warriors were giving “The King” exactly what he wanted. Which were one-on-one matchups in the post or isolation plays in 16-to-18 feet from the basket.

For the most part LeBron excelled against the one-on-one matchups, going 11-for-17 in the paint. But others times he let the Warriors off the hook by shooting from long range. He took eight 3-pointers.

What was more surprising was LeBron’s struggles from the left side of the floor outside of the paint. LeBron was 3-for-13 on jump shots from the left side of the floor, including his last second field goal attempt to win the game.

If LeBron exclusively plays in the post for the rest of the series and cuts off the 3-pointers all together, then the Warriors will be forced to send more double teams. In game one, Golden State sparingly sent help defense towards LeBron, but not enough to let the flood gates open up for the rest of the Cavs to get going.

As Kyrie goes, so do the Cavs

If there were any surprises in game one, it was the health of Kyrie Irving. The Cavs All-Star point guard had more than a bounce to his step and up until his injury in overtime he showed no signs of favoring his left leg at all.

His speed in the open court, ability to finish at the rim and his shooting from the outside was all there. He even made some more than impressive defensive plays on Stephen Curry. Everyone will remember his game saving block on Curry at the end of the fourth quarter, but Kyrie’s block on Curry in the first quarter showed that he was there to play.

With all that being said, it’s a shame that Irving is done for the series because his fate is in direct correlation with his team’s fate. It doesn’t matter how well LeBron plays, the Cavs are even more undermanned now.

What to look for in game two

In game one six Cavs played 30 plus minutes, James Jones logged 17 minutes, and Dellavedova played nine. The Cavs basically had a six and a half man rotation.

With Irving done for the series, the Cavs’ bench will probably be even shorter.

Dellavedova, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert will now monopolize all the minutes in the backcourt since the Cavs do not have any more guards on their depth chart, unless they want to pull Joe Harris off the bench.

If the Cavs want to have some offensively fluidity for the rest of the series, they need to move the ball more. The only good thing that happened in game one was Timothy Mozgov’s rim runs that resulted in easy dunks. For their sake, they need to get Tristan Thompson in some pick-and-roll actions that result in some easy baskets.

On the other side the Warriors need to keep doing what they are doing. Do not double LeBron on defense, and keep moving the ball constantly on offense in hopes of wearing down the Cavs.

Going by Tristan Thompson’s game high 47 minutes in game one, it seems like he is never going to come off the floor unless he is in foul trouble.

For the rest of the series look for the Warriors to space the floor even more with Draymond Green, to combat Thompson attacking the offensive boards. Thompson had six offensive rebounds in game one.

Now for the biggest question going into game two: Can the Cavs still be competitive?

Yes, but from here on out the Warriors can dictate the flow of the game more than ever. The Cavs are so debilitated at this point, it’s going to be hard for them stay with the Warriors from a scoring standpoint the rest of the series.

The Cavs’ only chance of winning the next game and the series is going to have to come from their defense. We know the lineup of Dellavedova-Shumpert-LeBron-Thompson-Mozgov, but their ability to do it for 48 minutes with a smaller rotation is the real question. Game two will answer that question.

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]

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