NBA Finals Recap: Unusual Suspects lead Warriors in Game 1

Imagine if I told you the Splash Brothers would combine for just 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting; would you ever think Golden State could win a game? Me neither.

But even without the heroics of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors still managed to handle the Cleveland Cavaliers fairly easily with a 104-89 win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to draw first-blood. At this point you may be wondering how in the hell the Cavs ended up losing by 15 while containing Curry and Thompson. The answer: Golden State’s deep bench mob, or “Bench Mobb Deep,” as I like to call them. Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa came into the game and proved “Ain’t no such thing as half-way crooks.”

The Warriors bench outscored Cleveland’s 45-10, with Livingston dropping a team-high and playoff career-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Golden State had seven players in total score in double-figures and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Curry (11 points) and Thompson (9) joined in on the fun with back-to-back dagger three-pointers. Cleveland had no answers for Livingston, who was able to get to his mid-range spots at-will and easily shoot over smaller defenders. Iguodala (12 points, seven rebounds and six assists) and Barbosa (11 points, 5-for-5 shooting) played strong defense and out-hustled the Cavs. Iggy also had a fire lit under him after taking an inadvertent dirty groin-shot from Matthew Dellavedova:

After that incident, the ‘Dubs went on a 25-8 run. In addition to the strong bench play, Draymond Green had 16 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals, Harrison Barnes put up 13 points and Andrew Bogut added 10. Golden State’s depth could prove to be the key to this series, and head coach Steve Kerr might not have to break anymore clipboards if his team keeps playing like this:

For Cleveland, this loss is concerning. LeBron James came close to a triple-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and his fellow Big 3 running-mates Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving had solid showings. Love had 17 points and 13 rebounds in his Finals debut after missing most of last year’s playoffs with a shoulder injury. Irving had 26 points in his return to the big stage after suffering a devastating knee injury in last year’s Game 1, but shot 7-for-22. The rest of the Cavaliers were pretty much nonexistent as Cleveland shot a dismal 38.1 percent from the field.

The Cavaliers have been waiting a year for this rematch, and when they finally got it they laid an egg. Cleveland will be sure to make adjustments, but the most disconcerting fact is that Curry and Thompson most likely won’t have another off-night like they did in Game 1. In our preview we said it’s scary when the Cavs can win without James scoring 30 points; it’s downright terrifying when the Warriors can win by 15 without Curry and Thompson getting buckets.

It wasn’t the Cavs’ defense that dried off the Splash Brothers; they were clanking open threes and missing easy layups. It can be expected that they’ll come out firing in Sunday’s Game 2. So Cleveland will need to perform better on defense in addition to finding other contributors on offense. If that doesn’t happen, it’ll be a short series and LeBron James will be looking like this for a long time:

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