The 2015 NBA Finals opened with two huge loses for the Cleveland Cavaliers. 1. The Cavs lost the game, falling short to the Golden State Warriors 108-100 and 2. Kyrie Irving left the game in overtime due to and apperent lower body injury.
All throughout the playoffs the Cavaliers have shown as much resiliancy and grit as any team in recent memory with their ability to win despite key injuries. Star power forward Kevin Love was lost for the remainder of the playoffs in the first round and Kyrie Irving hasn’t been 100 percent since the Boston Celtics series. Because of that the load has been placed on LeBron James.
Despite a Herculean, 44 point effort from James (his NBA Finals career-high) the Cavs couldn’t keep up with the Warriors, particularly on the bench.
Cleveland’s bench took a drubbing from Golden State’s. They were outscored 34-9. Do it all swingman Andre Iguodala lead the way for the Warriors bench crew with 15 points on six of eight shooting from the field. All the Cavs bench could muster up was nine points from J.R. Smith (all in the first half).
The Warriors second unit was key in getting them back in the game after a dominant first quarter from LeBron and Crew. The aforementioned Iguodala provided scoring, some suprising long distance shooting (two three pointers from the corner) and solid defense on James. Big man Marreese Speights (or Mo’ Buckets according to Mark Jackson) came in and provided some well timed offense as well, with eight points on four of eight from the field.
The Wine and Gold bench could not get going at all. Matthew Dellavedova, James Jones and J.R. Smith (in the second half) were all non-factors. This was not the case throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Dellavadova in particular seemed to have turned the corner in the previous rounds feeling in for an oft-injured Irving but he showed no signs of life in game one (zero points on zero shots).
From a starting unit standpoint the Cavaliers held their own against Golden State’s Splash Brothers tag team of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson were a combined 15 of 34 from the field for 47 points. Cleveland’s starting five outscored Golden State’s 91-74. The frontline duo of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson played extremely well. Thompson was his usual self, grabbing rebound after rebound for a grand total of 15. Mozgov made his prescence felt on the offensive side with 16 points, including two big free throws in the fourth to tie the game at 98.
One of the biggest questions heading into the series was how Irving would fare on defense against Curry. Irving played admirably and made this miraculous game saving block on Curry during the end of regulation.
Before the injury from a slip off a dribble move Kyrie was going toe-to-toe with the league’s most valuable player. Before exiting he had 23 points, six assists, seven rebounds and two blocks. If there was any question on if Uncle Drew could play on the biggest stage he answered them in game one, it’s just a shame that his body continues to fail him. Hopefully he will be ready for game two.
Something to think about for the Cavs coaches and something for Cavs fans to watch for is how Cleveland will deal with the ultra-small lineup that Golden State presents. The lineup With Draymond Green at the center position seemed to give the Cavs two big men (Thompson and Mozgov) trouble. It forced David Blatt’s hand and he was forced to insert Jones. Can Blatt and his staff make the necessary adjustments? Will Kyrie be able to play in game two? Find out on Sunday, as game two will be back at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.