The Highlights

  • The Warriors are capable of playing so much better than they did in Game 1, especially on defense.
  • If the Cavs can fix their Game 1 shooting woes, they’ll have a good chance to rebound from a devastating loss.
  • Given how much the Warriors have struggled in the first half in the playoffs, Cavs +6.5 in the 1H is enticing. 

OAKLAND, Calif. —  OK.

So.

A lot happened there in that NBA Finals Game 1. I’m still wrapping my head around it two days later, but let’s try to sort out where this series goes from here.

The Angles, just as soon as I figure out what in God’s name J.R. was thinking …

WARRIORS -11: The line dropped a full point after word released that Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson would be spared potential suspensions, then another half-point after Klay Thompson showed up with a visible limp Saturday after his collision with J.R. Smith. Thompson did say he plans to play, while Andre Iguodala is doubtful.

I don’t have a great feel for the series yet. Game 1 was so far from what we expected (a dominant Warriors win), such a weird game (with the calls and J.R.’s near-peak-J.R.-ing) and a bizarre continuation of the Warriors looking very beatable that I have very little sense for what Game 2 might entail. Let me put together the argument for Warriors -11.

 

  • It’s only one point above the Game 1 margin, despite the Cavs leading the majority of the game and it going to overtime (which is hilarious, by the way).
  • Kevin Durant had an awful shooting game no matter how weird the situation currently is with him.
  • LeBron James went absolutely nuclear last game, even for him, with maybe the greatest individual Finals performance ever, and the Cavs still lost by 10.
  • The Warriors tend to respond when they lose, and they nearly did.
  • The Cavs played really well by their standards on defense, with sharp rotations, excellent rebounding and the best closeouts they’ve had all season. They still gave up a 120 defensive rating.
  • The Cavs are trying to respond after maybe the worst gut-punch game in Finals history, on the road, against an all-time great team. Getting yourself back up emotionally is brutal, and you just wonder how many times James can rally himself and the troops.

The biggest thing is how much better the Warriors can play. Stephen Curry had a good game overall, but not a spectacular one, and Thompson was limited. But mostly, their defense was off. They didn’t rotate, didn’t attack, didn’t hit guys. They coasted and almost lost. Even if Golden State doesn’t refocus, its standard should be considerably higher.

Finally, when the Warriors win, they don’t usually win by narrow margins. They annihilate teams, as they did against a great Rockets team in Games 3 and 6. The Cavs responded to the Warriors’ third-quarter rush in Game 1, but Golden State at home in the third is usually enough to get things out of hand.

 

CAVALIERS +11: Now, with that said, I think there might be some value on the other side. I’m not trying to speak out of both sides of my mouth here. I’m trying to arm you with the best information possible, depending on where you lean.

Here’s the thing:

  • The Warriors got the offensive profile they wanted. They average 12.4 off-screen possessions per game in the playoffs. They had 11 in Game 1. They average 15.7 spot-up plays per game, and had 14 in Game 1. They had a lot of ISOs (that KD effect again), but they got the kind of offensive looks they wanted. And yet the Cavs led most of the game and probably should have won.
  • The Cavs’ shooting woes were obvious, but just to make them crystal clear: The Cavaliers had 15 “unguarded” catch-and-shoot opportunities in Game 1, per Synergy Sports. They made just three of them. You have to almost work to miss that many.
  • The Cavs have so many areas they can improve. While the Warriors basically got the game they wanted offensively, the Cavs not only missed all those shots and gave up 28 fast-break points, but Ty Lue didn’t give Kyle Korver (+12 in 16 minutes) enough time, and even outside of his incomprehensible gaffe, Smith was even more of a disaster than usual. Now, the Warriors have a lot of areas to improve as well, but as Larry Nance told reporters Saturday, “We know we can hang with them, in this building (Oracle Arena).”
  • Finally, we all expected a blowout in Game 1, because no one gives Cleveland a chance. But we just haven’t seen the Warriors play their A-game that much. Even in the earlier rounds, they won convincingly, but not in complete annihilation fashion. The only game where they completely tore a team apart was Game 3 against Houston. They’ve separated in the second half, but Cleveland with James has the capacity to hang. Speaking of …

Cavaliers +6.5 first half: Here’s one: the Warriors have only led at the half once in their past eight games, going back to the start of the Western Conference finals. They’ve trailed four times and been tied thrice. They’ve obviously managed to win enough to get to this point, but that’s notable.

 

I asked Shaun Livingston about why that is:

“We know how to win games. We know how to close games,” Livingston said with a shrug. “We might not always start off the right way, but it’s a 48-minute game. We would all prefer to start off better, to play a 48-minute game. But a lot of the time it’s making adjustments, especially in the playoffs because there’s so much scouting. Sometimes making minor adjustments at halftime is a big deal.”

Either way, the Cavs getting a number that high in the first half is awfully tempting.

Over 214.5:  Game 1 was a barnburner. The Cavs’ defense, despite the aforementioned effort in Game 1, remains trash. The Warriors don’t appear to be locked in defensively, and holding James and his shooters down is difficult anyway. This number is down dramatically from last year. The over has hit the past three times these two teams have played in Oracle; the last under was against a 225 total.

Going with the over on Golden State’s team total is a lot safer than the game total, but this still seems like a series that could be decided on the offensive end.


More Coverage of Game 2

Credit:

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevon Looney