Game 1 Takeaways..No, Breakdown

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Game 1 Takeaways Breakdown

We endured an arduous 82-game season to get to last night’s inevitable start of the 2017 NBA Finals, and we were not disappointed…well unless we were Cleveland/LBJ fans. Game 1 of this trilogy was highly anticipated and, for a half, had a few fireworks. Ultimately, the 3rd quarter proved to be the unraveling of the Cavs, as Golden State started “Golden Stating”, outscoring them 33-20 in the period. The Warriors came out and played (see what I did there), riding a 93-72 lead into the 4th quarter and maintaining from there to close out Game 1, 113-91. I considered doing a “Bill Simmons-esque” minute by minute game log, but I missed half of the first quarter and also realized I didn’t have the patience to pay that much attention for that amount of time. Plus, I’m not getting paid, so there’s that. Instead, I give you…

*Drum roll please”

“Murph’s Game 1 Breakdown”…
Kinda anticlimactic since the title gave it away…
Nevertheless, what follows is an incoherent smattering of observations from Game 1 with a few suggestions for both teams as they move forward. Let’s do this!

Rest is overrated. I mean I know it’s the new thing to do…sit out a few regular season games, dispose of teams quickly, get significant rest in between playoff series, and then coast to victory right?


There’s just one small caveat to the “Rest Theory”…

Our bodies don’t really operate like that. We don’t have the ability to accumulate and store up rest to evenly distribute as we would like. It’s almost like the popular “catching up on sleep” line that we use to fool ourselves into thinking that sleeping half the day away somehow makes up for lost sleep from earlier in the week. Realistically, all it really takes is 1 game to get worn down, even if you’ve had significant rest.

Case in point: King James. LBJ was TIRED. Yes he rested during the regular season. Yes he coasted through the playoffs with plenty of rest leading up to Game 1…but The King was tired last night. He had to exert a tremendous amount of energy on both ends of the floor, and as the game wore on, he wore out. The jumpers got shorter. There was a reliance on jumpers instead of the drives. There were careless turnovers. There were some missed defensive assignments. The King was gassed. All of that rest went right off the Golden Gate Bridge in 1 night. You can put 2 days in between games or you can put 5 days. The frenetic style of play that those cats from the Bay Area bring will quickly make those legs forget they even hit the whirpool. Rest is overrated, which leads to…

Help Me. (*insert Kevin Hart gif here) I was one of those who believed the Cavaliers had a better bench than Golden State. And I honestly don’t think I’m wrong. I think what I (and others) failed to realize was one tiny thing…

The Cavs have a better bench when Lebron is on the floor with them. What most of those guys bring to the table is enhanced with LBJ’s playmaking ability. On their own, I don’t think they can be trusted…and that’s a problem. For the record, I don’t think either bench can be totally left alone to their own devices, even though GS was able to rest their stars last night and insert several bench players without losing much…but I digress…

LBJ logged 40 minutes in Game 1. The previous 2 finals, he averaged over 40 minutes of play. I know the man is a machine, but let’s now throw in the comparison…

KD played 37 minutes. Steph played 34 minutes. Klank (I meant Klay) played 36 minutes. Draymond played 36 minutes. That differential may seem small, but I really don’t think it can be glossed over. Minutes logged is really why rest is overrated. The Warriors can afford to give their guys breathers.

Can Cleveland afford to sit Lebron?

Golden State was able to sit KD and Steph at the same time last night. I don’t know if Cleveland can do the same with LBJ and Kyrie and feel comfortable.

The KD Effect. THESE ARE NOT YOUR 2015 AND 2016 WARRIORS! Harrison Barnes is not here anymore. Speights, Barbosa, Ezeli, and Bogut aren’t coming through that door either…

And that’s a problem for Cleveland!

If I told you that LBJ would have 28, 15, and 8; Love would have 15 and 21; and Kyrie would have 24, you would likely be feeling pretty good right? If I told you in that same game that Draymond would have 9 and Klay Thompson would have 6, you’d be feeling even better, even if I told you Steph had 28!

But this time instead of Harrison Bricks, we insert the man known as Kevin Durant, one of the most lethal scoring forces in western civilization (shout out Bill Walton)…and he practically outscores Kyrie and Love by himself, dropping a 38-piece special in his first finals game since 2012.
The Warrior bench only outscored the Cleveland bench by 3 (24-21), so the benches were a wash. As The King duly noted after the game, KD was the difference. Last year when the Cavs learned that Barnes had lost all ability to make a shot, they left him alone and were able to focus defensively on stopping Klay and Steph…and it worked. Unfortunately for Cleveland, KD ain’t HB. You cannot leave him. You must have your best players guarding him, which ultimately can kill their effectiveness on their offensive end of the floor.

I have to also note that KD’s defense has been the most impressive part of his game this year for me. I thought the job he did on LBJ was as good as it gets. Not only did he attack him offensively, but he made LBJ exert a lot of energy to get his shots over those long arms.

O Brother Where Art Thou?
Tristan Thompson: 22 minutes, 0 points, 4 rebounds
JR Smith: 28 minutes, 3 points, 3 mental meltdowns
Kyle Korver: 19 minutes, 0 points
Deron Williams: 18 minutes, 0 points
Iman Shumpert: 16 minutes, 5 points

If this is all these guys are going to give (which I do not believe), then there is trouble in TheLand. Thompson, especially, is who I believe can significantly impact this series, but last night was clearly not the effort needed. (*insert Kardashian baby joke here)

To be fair, what happened to Javale McGee? I thought (outside of jumping ridiculously late and being put on his first finals poster) he provided some excellent hustle and energy. In 5 minutes of action, he scored 4 points, pulled 5 boards (3 on the offensive end), had an assist, and got a big time block on Tristan Thompson. I’m starting the petition here. We want to see more McGee!

Shaun Livingston, David West, and Ian Clark were all a tad off as well, but they had the Slim Reaper covering them.

Sharpshooters. Have we, at any time in NBA history, seen 3 historic shooters on the same team at the same time? The fact that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant comprise positions 1-3 of a team is freaking ridiculous. Yea I know Coach Lue kind of dismissed game planning for this team in the media, but this has to be a nightmare.

What do you do?

You can’t double the hot man at all. 2 of the 3 are adept at putting the ball on the floor if you run at them. All 3 have a midrange game, so it’s not 3 or bust…which leads me to…

Don’t Get All Defensive. I am very interested in seeing the defensive adjustments for Game 2. The Cavs tried to stick with the shooters in the first half of Game 1 and gave up several uncontested dunks and layups. In the 2nd half when they closed the lane, it opened up the 3 ball. It was pretty much “Pick Your Poison Night” and the Cavs were the lucky contestants.

The Warriors had a solid game plan that I would really like to see more of as the series goes on. I saw them stay home on shooters several times when LBJ drove, anticipating the kick out that he does so well. This led to some turnovers. They did their homework on how LBJ drives to the basket and, really seemed to come alive defensively in the 2nd half. KD’s length made it very difficult for LBJ to even make layups. They congested the lane, they converged several times, and they closed out on shooters. Will Cleveland miss those looks all series? Probably not, but this was the best defense the Cavs have seen.

Another note- There was a lineup that Golden State put on the floor that I thought was a very solid LBJ containing lineup. They had Iggy, Draymond, KD, and Klay there with someone else. What I liked about this lineup is that it neutralized the pick and roll because all 4 of these guys are stout defenders. Instead of the backpedaling and space that slow-footed bigs like Olynyk, Jefferson, Morris, and Ibaka gave LBJ, these guys are able to get up in him and make those drives difficult.

Klank Thompson. Klay is in a dreadful shooting slump right now. It’s so bad, I found myself cringing at some of his misses.

But it’s not the end of the world.

If Klay continues giving 100% on the defensive end, then you take that trade off every time. If he can make Kyrie have to work harder and shoot more to get his points, that’s a fair trade.

However, I do not advise Cleveland to let this man get hot.

Looking Ahead. This series is far from over. If last year taught us anything, it’s that we cannot count out Lebron James.

For Cleveland…
1. Muddy the game up. Make it chippier. Get you a flagrant foul if you have to, but show that you are there to fight.
2. Try to slow the game by using size on the blocks.
3. Win the rebounding battle.
4. Hit a few of those open looks. Yea, it’s easier said than done, but that’s the only way you can open up the offense.

For Golden State…
1. Shot selection and ball security when you have the lead has to be better. The game should have gotten out of hand earlier, but a few bad shots allowed Cleveland to hang around. This has been the story of Golden State for 3 years though…they will always give you a chance to get back in it.
2. Take the 2nd half’s defensive intensity over to the next game. This was a solid defensive performance that should be able to translate.
3. More Javale McGee. (I never thought I’d say that. Ever.)
4. Tell Klay to keep shooting. That’s what shooter do.

Until Game 2…I’m out.


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