After the Oklahoma City Thunder took Golden State to seven games in the Western Conference Finals, I think I took for granted how good the entire Warriors’ roster can be. It’s fun and easy to talk about the electric play of back-to-back MVP Steph Curry, the incredible shooting of Klay Thompson, and the versatility Draymond Green brings to the table. But the talent around the three all-stars deserve praise, too. A lot of it.
The Warriors’ bench outscored the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 45-10 in Thursday’s 104-89 rout at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala scored 66 points while shooting 70% from the field, 20 of which came from Livingston in 27 minutes of play.
(Livingston has been great off the bench for the Warriors in their historical 73-win season, but he struggled against the Thunder in the WFC. In seven games, he scored 27 total points (3.9 per game) and shot 35%, per Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead).
While the Warriors have a number of guys who can contribute off the bench, it will likely cost them if Curry and Thompson combine for 20 points on 27 shots again like in game 1. While Green seemed to regain confidence after a rough series against the Thunder (16p/11r/7a in game 1 against the Cavs), The Warriors will most likely need more from their top two offensive scorers.
It’s safe to say Curry and Thompson will show up, but you can also bet that Cleveland’s LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will play a lot better, too. Especially King James, who absolutely dominated in the finals last year despite playing without his co-stars.
James finished with 23 points (9-21 from the field), 12 rebounds and 9 assists, but he struggled on offense and was clearly bothered by the defense of Iguodala, who was last year’s Finals MVP. Irving finished with 26 points (11-12 from the free throw line), but he shot 7 of 22 from the field. Kevin Love finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but was bad on defense.
The Cavs shot 43% from three during this year’s playoffs, but were 7 for 21 in game 1. If it wasn’t for two threes in the last 4:43 of the game (garbage time), the Cavs would have shot under 30% from three against the Warriors in game 1. If they have any shot in this series, that number obviously has to be way higher.
The Cavs need James and Irving to play better, but definitely need help from the bench too. Guys like J.R. Smith and Channing Frye shot well all postseason, but were complete non-factors in game 1.
I threw a lot of stats out there, but the one that sticks out most to me is this one. In the last nine playoff series in which LeBron James’ team went down lost game 1, they won game 2. The Cavs will need to play way better to steal game 2 in Oracle, and if they can’t, they will have to beat this Warriors team 4 out of the next 5 games.
Good luck with that.
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