The Golden State Warriors added another victim who succumbed to their overall team depth, and this time, it came on the biggest of stages. Despite having LeBron James going off for 44 points, it wasn’t enough as the Warriors took Game One of the NBA Finals.
The main reason Golden State was able to survive was their ability to receive contributions from different places. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, their two leaders, combined for 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting and a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line.
The MVP on this night for the Warriors was Andre Igoudala who was simply outstanding. Igoudala often found himself matched up with James and he more than held his own, despite James’ gaudy point total. Igoudala made James take 38 shots in order to accumulate his 44 points and played great defense in forcing James into a contested fadeaway at the end of the fourth.
However, Igoudala wasn’t just a defensive presence as he was Golden State’s third-leading scorer with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including knocking down a three-point shot with one shoe on. Igoudala’s play off the bench is one of the Warriors primary advantages in this series.
Golden State doesn’t mind going to their bench for extended periods of time. Oftentimes in these playoffs, the Warriors have started slow in the first quarter and the same happened last night. Golden State was down 10 after the first quarter and were shooting less than 30 percent.
However, head coach Steve Kerr turned to his bench and they helped turn things around. The second unit helped spark the Warriors resurgence as they outscored the Cavaliers 29-22 in the quarter. The bench’s play seemed to ignite the starters and fuel them the rest of the way.
The reason Kerr can go to his bench is they’re productive. Golden State outscored Cleveland 34-9 last night in bench scoring, and all nine points for the Cavaliers came via J.R. Smith.
But it’s not just the bench where the depth is evident. The Warriors lineup is interchangeable, and Kerr likes to ride the hot hands in giving them extended minutes. Golden State featured 10 players in last night’s game and all 10 managed to find the scoresheet.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers featured eight players in last night’s game, but only six scored and Kyrie Irving looks likely to miss Game Two after re-aggravating his left-knee injury.
In a shocking stat, Cleveland had only three players score over the final 29 minutes of game action. James, Irving and Timofey Mozgov combined for 49 points on 20-for-41 shooting in the second half and overtime, but the rest of the team attempted only nine shots, missing all of them.
Therein lies the difference between the two teams. The Warriors can rely on a bevy of offensive options and talent, while the Cavaliers must rely on James. He nearly single-handedly willed Cleveland to steal the first game, but yet again, Golden State was able to wear down their opponents.
James was forced to play 46 minutes, and he and the rest of his teammates, appeared fatigued as the overtime session played out. The Warriors held the Cavaliers to 1-of-10 shooting, with the one being a meaningless layup from James in the final seconds, and forced three turnovers.
In Game One, Cleveland tried to beat Golden State with a one-man show, and it nearly worked. However, yet again, they witnessed the ruthlessness of the Warriors as they keep coming in waves.
If the Cavaliers don’t find a supporting cast, they will find themselves out of this series very quickly. Golden State displayed the kind of team-wide talent and depth that led them to the best record in the NBA, and may carry them to their first title in 40 years.