If anything was certain in game 1 of the NBA Finals, it’s that the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to need to play much better defensively in order to split the series at one game apiece. Game 2 of the NBA Finals will be played at Oracle Arena, Sunday June 4th at 8 pm ET.
Cleveland struggling to keep the ball on their side was an issue all night long and the main reason the Golden State Warriors opened up the second half firing on all cylinders. It took four minutes until the Cavs scored their first basket in the third quarter.
Cleveland also committed a horrendous 20 turnovers compared to a total of 4 for the Golden State Warriors, and those both either set or tied records for the NBA Finals. Expect Cleveland to have this at the top of their list for game 2, because if they have the same total of steals they had, they will get run over just like they did in game 1. The sloppiness in game 1 was equivalent to how the Cavaliers started out the 2016 NBA Finals with a total of 35 in the first two games. None of that is a recipe for success against a team towards the top of the league in defensive efficiency.
Warriors Roll In Transition
Not only did Golden State set the tempo on offense in this game, but a lot of that was thanks to their 27 fast break points. The Warriors are simply too good of a team to beat when allowing them to play at the pace they want too and handing them the ball while not getting back on defense. This led to Kevin Durant dunking on what seemed like every possession. In the first half, one could have sworn it was NBA2K.
Durant tied his career high for dunks in a game in just the second quarter and it came in his first finals game with Golden State. If Cleveland is going to make it tougher on the Warriors, at least force them to make a three instead of an easy dunk. This will be interesting to see how Cleveland defends in transition.
Mismatches Everywhere for Cleveland
The game of basketball comes down to which team can create the most mis-matches and therefore pressure the opposing team to make a stop. The Warriors won that game by a mile.
The only player that should even be guarding Durant should be LeBron James (when both in the game of course). The highlights below capture the awful defense and it was a consistent factor all game.
Better Bench Play
The Cleveland Cavaliers bench was nonexistent in the first game of this series. They put up a combined total of 21 points on 6-24 shooting and only three players scored out of that group (Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, Dahnaty Jones). Again, this disaster must be avoided in order to stay in the game with Warriors, which is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Better play will be much needed on Sunday night because otherwise Kyrie and LeBron have to both put up 41 points like they did in game 5 of the 2016 finals to have a shot.
Not all of these issues will dissolve completely in game 2 for the Cavaliers, but major adjustments defensively need to be made along with fewer turnovers and that will keep the game more competitive. If Golden State goes up by double digits, Cleveland will be in trouble. Cleveland needs to do everything possible to tie the series at one a piece, because they don’t want to fall in a two game to none hole heading home or this series could be over quicker than expected.