On a night when “Splash Brothers” Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for a total of just 20 points, three players coming off the bench make up for the slack. Backup point guard Shawn Livingston led the threesome comprised of 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and 12-year offensive firecracker Leandro Barbosa. Livingston had 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting, including a perfect 4 out of 4 from the free throw line. Scoring a solid 12 points on 5-for-9 field goals, Iguodala was +21 in player efficiency in 36 minutes of action.
Once seeing action for the “Seven Seconds” or less Phoenix Suns in the early 2000’s, Barbosa was perfect from the floor at 5-for-5, including 1-for-1 on threes. These reserves were instrumental in Golden State’s 104-89 opening win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs essentially get the same result as last year—a game 1 loss— in their finals rematch against the Golden State Warriors despite having superstars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving healthy and available to play. Along with superstar LeBron James, the “Big Three” of Cleveland have no more excuses should they once again fall to the Warriors in the 2016 Finals.
In this game the trio fizzled, shooting a combined 23-for-60 from the field at 5-for-13 from three-point range. Their end-game totals of 17 points for Love, 23 points for James and 26 points from Irving masks a horrendous performance. The “Big Three” shot 38 percent field from the field, committed 11 turnovers and were a combined -26 in their 116 minutes of action. The bench was almost nonexistent for Cleveland, with a total of 10 points between eight players that head coach Tyron Lue put in the game.
“Their bench played well,” stated Lue in his post game press conference when asked about Barbosa, Livingston and Iguodala.
“So we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and try to figure out how to take those guys out of the game.”
Some of the positives for the Cavs include a rebounding edge for Love and James, who collected 13 and 12 boards, respectively. Along with starting center Tristan Thompson’s 12 rebounds (and 4 combined from guards Irving and J.R. Smith), the Cavalier starters outrebounded their Warrior counterparts 41-34. As a team the Cavs were also ahead in rebounds, 47-41. They also missed just 2 shots out of 20 free throw attempts (90%), which should bode well for a team that has no shortage of elite finishers when attacking the basket.
An area they could improve on is managing turnovers, with the Cavs giving away 15 compared to just 9 from Golden State. The Cavaliers also need to shoot better from three-point range. Heading into game 1, Cleveland averaged a 2016 playoff-leading 14.4 makes from three per game. In game one the team made just 7 three-pointers out of 21 attempts (33 percent).
Cleveland can be consoled by the fact that they at least held Curry and Thompson to an even worse performance from three, with the pair combining for an 8-for-27 clip. The superstar duo finished with 11 points for Curry and 9 points for Thompson. As a team, they also matched the Warriors in the first period, going down by just 4 points, 24-28. However Cleveland had trouble when it came to closing down halves. The Cavaliers were outscored 40-54 in the second and fourth quarters. In particular, the Warriors went 7-for-9 from the field in a Leandro-Barbosa-inspired run early in the second.
The Cavaliers managed fight and cut the lead 53-50 at the onset of the third period. Cameras caught Warriors head coach smashing his white coaching clipboard with what appears to be his pen, smashing the board in half. The NBA Coach of the Year remarked about the incident after the game: “Destruction tends to ease some of the anger. So I try to take it out on a clipboard instead of a player.” With heroics from Steph Curry, the Warriors would finish the third still holding a slight advantage 74-68.
The final period was a different story for the defending champs. The run sparked by bench players Barbosa and Livingston saw the Warriors up by 14 with 9:47 left in the fourth quarter. After Cleveland called timeout in an attempt to stop the bleeding, the bench players picked up where they left off. Andrei Igoudala’s fast break finish capped off a run that had the Warriors up 20 a few minutes later, 96-76, with less than half the quarter left to play. Curry would hit a dagger three to finish the Cavs with 2:55 left in the game, 101-87 in favor of Golden State.
Klay Thompson would add another three-pointer thirty seconds later for good measure, virtually putting the game out of reach at 14 points with 2:30 left. From this moment on it was garbage time for both teams, who checked their bench with 2:24 remaining. The reserves combined to score just two points, ending game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals with a final score of 104-89.
“We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball, said Cleveland head coach Tyrone Lue. “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.”
Game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors is scheduled on June 6 at the Oracle Arena, Oakland California.