OAKLAND, Calif. (Diya TV) — When the Warriors and Cavaliers faced off on Christmas Day this season, the matchup was the most highly anticipated game on the NBA’s schedule — Cleveland would be provided the opportunity to avenge their defeat at the hands of Golden State in last year’s NBA Finals. An opportunity squandered as the Warriors would emerge victorious against a complete Cavaliers squad.
Thursday night at Oracle Arena, Cleveland and Golden State once again faced off in the NBA Finals, with both teams showcasing full rosters this time around. The Cavaliers came away from Game 1 looking unprepared for the offensive onslaught of the Warriors bench, falling 104-89.
Golden State’s reserves outscored the Cavaliers’, 45-10.
Likely a byproduct of Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue’s strategy to contain the offensive output of Stephen Curry.
“Everyone’s going to have a role trying to guard Curry. He’s a tough player and we know he makes this team go,” Lue said. “Everybody has to be locked in and focused on Steph.”
His strategy worked somewhat — Curry ended the night going 4 for 15 from the field with just 11 points. Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson’s night wasn’t any better, finishing his Game 1 performance with nine points. The two combined to shoot 8-of-27.
However, Shaun Livingston showcased the playoff performance of his life, posting a career-playoff high 20 points during a 80 percent shooting performance. Last year’s Finals MVP Andre Iguodala added another 12, and Leandro Barbosa shot a perfect 5 for 5, collecting 11 points of his own. All three players came off the bench.
“Yeah, it’s all a feel. Just being aggressive when we’re out there,” Livington said about the bench play. “They (Curry and Thompson) command so much attention, especially Steph off the pick-and-roll, so we try to make ourselves available for him and be able to make plays and relieve pressure for him because all it takes is one shot to go in, we know that — same for Klay — and they get rolling fast.”
The MVP spoke on Livingston and the rest of the bench’s effort during his postgame interview.
“Whether it’s 45 points off the bench or just playing aggressive and continuing what we start. But tonight it was the opposite. They really changed the game, and it allowed us to win tonight.”
The always emotional Draymond Green emerged as the most efficient of the night’s starters, filling his stat line with 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
“This team is prepared for this,” Lue had stated before the game. “I think they’re eager for it. Kevin and Kyrie not being a part of The Finals last year and they’re excited and anxious. So now that we’re here, we’re ready to perform.”
Kyrie Irving scored the game-high 26 points for the Cavaliers, Love added another 17 and collected 13 rebounds. Superstar LeBron James ended falling just one assist short of a triple-double, scoring 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
“When you get outscored 45-10 on the bench and give up 25 points off 17 turnovers, no matter what someone does or doesn’t do, it’s going to be hard to win, especially on the road,” said James. “And that’s what it was. Obviously the game ball goes to Shaun Livingston. Came in, gave them a huge spark.
“But don’t matter what you do with Steph and Klay, don’t matter what you do with Draymond. Give up 45 points off the bench and 25 points off turnovers on the road, it’s not a good ingredient to win.”
Cleveland turned over the ball 17 times in the contest, which directly resulted in 25 points for Golden State.
Game 2 between the two teams will tipoff Sunday at 5 p.m.