Cavaliers Dominated by Warriors Bench in Game 1

The Cavs were able to slow down Golden State's dynamic duo, but it was the 2nd squads that made the difference in game 1.

For Cleveland fans, if you heard that Thompson and Curry would score 20 total points, LeBron would flirt with a triple-double, and Irving would score 26 points, you'd be encouraged, right? The Cavs forced Curry and Thompson into rough shooting nights and made other players beat them. However, the Cavs did virtually nothing to slow down those other guys.

Shaun Livingston scored 20 off the bench, Andre Iguodala picked up where he left off in last year's Finals (when he won MVP), and even Anderson Varejao forced some turnovers and drew fouls. Cleveland had no answers on either end.

In the first half, Harrison Barnes got off to a hot start before Iguodala came in and started forcing turnovers on James and Kyrie. He hit open threes, and the Cavs were content to give them to him instead of letting Curry/Thompson make them. It backfired. The strong first half by Barnes and the slow-paced Cavaliers equaled a 52-43 halftime lead for the defending champs.

On the other side, James, Love, and Irving combined for 11 turnovers in the game and shot less than 40% from the floor as a trio as the Cavaliers offense was disastrous. Cleveland shot 38% overall and turned the ball over 17 times, but it looked worse than that. Throughout the first half the Cavs appeared to be so worried about finding the right match-ups on offense that they'd waste 20 seconds getting the switch. By the time they had the switch, Golden State was able to double that player and force up a bad shot (or a shot clock violation, which happened twice in the first half). James was aggressive early but couldn't find the basket after the first quarter and the story was similar for Love and Kyrie. Even Channing Frye missed a three.

After being so successful with finding the open man and hitting shots, the Cavs had one of their lowest assist totals of the playoffs, gathering just 17 on their 32 made FGs. 

It came down to this: Tyronn Lue has had 12 months to come up with a plan of attack for the Warriors. The plan appeared to be "let's wing it." There was no free-flowing movement like in the first three rounds. There was no forcing Golden State to run through screens. There was minimal movement off the ball. There were no plays drawn up to get certain guys shots. There was just isolation.

On one occasion, to start hte 2nd quarter, the Cavs went to the wildly successful elbow-play with LeBron in which Delly and Jefferson cross-screen. It worked 9 times in a row against Toronto and then Cleveland almost never returned to it. In game 1, the Cavaliers tried it once. It drew a foul. It then went back into the pocket for more isolation.

Yes, the Cavaliers have some of the best isolation players in the NBA, but that's clearly not the way to beat Golden State. Oklahoma City just laid the blueprint for how to beat the Warriors and it wasn't "shrink the court so they can gang-defend with 3 on the shot clock."

It wasn't all bad for the Cavaliers, but it was mostly bad. The glimmer of hope was in Cleveland's offensive rebounding, where they grabbed 15. It was second chances that kept Cleveland close early in the 2nd half, when a strong sequence had the teams trading leads for several minutes. But even when Cleveland was fighting back into the game, they were still forcing up difficult shots. In the clip below, coming off a turnover, the Cavs look completely lost on offense. It was plays like this that brought them close before the Warriors bench blew it open again.

The Cavaliers had answers to the biggest question - how do you slow down the Warrior back-court. The second biggest question was what the Cavaliers would devise on offense. The answer was absolutely nothing. 

To recap: Steph Curry was a 0 in plus/minus. Klay Thompson was a +5. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Leandro Barbosa were a combined +56. 

We'll see what next game brings, but for Cleveland, it needs to be something starkly different. It needs to be something creative. It needs to be something. The current plan was nothing.

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