OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Cleveland Cavaliers waited 12 long months for a chance at revenge against the Golden State Warriors but came away looking unprepared for the offensive onslaught that awaited them at Oracle Arena in Thursday’s 104-89 loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue vowed to run with the Warriors, a team better at that style than perhaps any team in league history after an all-time best 73-9 mark in the regular season, but the wheels fell off his supposedly rested squad.
Although Cleveland hadn’t played a game in five days and the Warriors had just two days off after their drag-it-out, seven-game series against Oklahoma City, it was the Cavs who looked a step slow on offense and downright discombobulated on defense.
The final score was a laugher, but Cleveland showed brief signs of life.
After trailing by as many as 14 in the first half, the Cavs made their run midway through the third quarter on the backs of the two players missing from last year’s Finals: Kyrie Irving (26 points) and Kevin Love (17 points, 13 rebounds). Those two helped the Cavs to their first lead of the game since the opening minutes, 64-63 with 3:57 in the third, the Cavs seemed to finally find a rhythm to what had been a disjointed effort.
Not long after that, however, momentum completely disappeared, with Love going to the bench to rest and a controversial play sparking something in the Warriors.
With less than a minute left in the third quarter, Matthew Dellavedova swiped Andre Iguodala from behind, trying to knock the ball loose, and ended up making contact between Iguodala's legs, near his groin. After a lengthy review, it was called a common foul.
After that, Golden State –- fueled by jump shots from Iguodala (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists) -- reeled off the kind of run that is all too common at Oracle Arena. The Warriors pushed their lead back to 10 by the 11:10 mark of the fourth quarter and eventually bumped it all the way up to 20.
"We've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball, especially against a good offensive team like this. We can't gift them points and give them points like that. We'll be better next game," Lue said.
Giving credence to the Warriors’ “Strength in Numbers” marketing slogan for the playoffs, Golden State’s bench absolutely dismantled Cleveland’s reserves, outscoring them 45-10 with former Cavs guard Shaun Livingston (20 points on 8-of-10 shooting) and Leandro Barbosa (11 points on 5-of-5 shooting) leading the way.
The highly anticipated series opener finished with the Cavs subbing in James Jones, Timofey Mozgov, Dahntay Jones, Mo Williams and Channing Frye with 2:24 remaining in the fourth, essentially conceding the game.
Cleveland finished shooting just 38.1 percent and coughed up 17 turnovers that led to 25 points by the Warriors. These are correctable mistakes if you take care of the ball and convert more of your point-blank looks at the rim. But that eluded everyone from Love to Irving to even James, who started 4-for-5 but finished with a 9-for-21 line for 23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
It was the Warriors’ sixth straight win over the Cavs, dating to last year’s Finals, and the Cavs could be in for an even longer night Sunday in Game 2, if Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for just 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting in the opener, can get going.