The 2017 NBA Finals certainly have a familiar feel to them through Game 1.
Like a year ago, the Golden State Warriors defended Oracle arena in emphatic fashion, trouncing the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-91 in a blowout meant to set the tone for the rest of the series.
If only it were so simple.
Where this series is dramatically different isn’t hard to figure out (hint: it starts at Kevin and ends at Durant) by any means, but whether the difference creates a Warriors revenge tale is much harder to discern.
No matter how it pans out, this has the feel of a seven-game series, so here’s a look at the schedule:
- Game 2: Cleveland at Golden State, Sunday, June 4, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
- Game 3: Golden State at Cleveland, Wednesday, June 7, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
- Game 4: Golden State at Cleveland, Friday, June 9, at 9 p.m. on ET ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
- Game 5 (if necessary): Cleveland at Golden State, Monday, June 12, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
- Game 6 (if necessary): Golden State at Cleveland, Thursday, June 15, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
- Game 7 (if necessary): Cleveland at Golden State, Sunday, June 18, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
Even if it didn’t turn out to be a close game, there was entertainment galore in Game 1.
Fans got to see, in no particular order, LeBron James slam through another 40 minutes, Deron Williams miss every shot he took over 19, Kevin Love revert to his usual self with a 4-of-13 mark from the field, Klay Thompson once again settle into his non-factor role with just six points and someone such as JaVale McGee play critical minutes while flexing the superior depth of Golden State.
Got all that?
Mostly, though, it was the Kevin Durant show.
The Warriors hired Durant to be a Cavaliers assassin and—no matter how some might feel about him leaving Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City—he’s stressed the necessary mentality while sparring with the best player on the planet.
James guarding him or not, Durant dropped a game-high 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting and added eight rebounds and assists apiece, polishing off a LeBron-esque number. As he was quick to tell the media, he’s the X-factor because the Cavaliers were so focused on the deep ball.
“I felt like in transition they were running out to the three-point line,” Durant said, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver. “We’ve got the best three-point shooters in the world on our team, so obviously teams want to take away our three-pointer. I just tried to be aggressive to the rim and loosen them up a bit.”
And honestly, the Cavaliers played right into Durant’s hands, as LeBron himself helped point out after the loss, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com): “We did a great job of covering the 3-point line but other than that they played a hell of a game.”
The next question is easy: Where do the Cavaliers go from here? Every player just landed on the wrong side of the plus-minus scale in Game 1, according to ESPN.com, while every member of the Warriors—literally everyone who suited up for a minute—landed in the positive, led by Stephen Curry at +20.
For Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue, the answer first pertains to the miserable 20 turnovers his guys fired off Thursday night, which goes hand in hand with better transition defense.
“I thought a lot of (what went wrong) can be corrected. It’s a different dynamic when Kevin Durant is pushing the ball in transition and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on the wings, we got spread out in transition. We have to do better…,” Lue said, according to NBCSports.com’s Kurt Helin.
None of this is to suggest the Cavaliers don’t have schematic adjustment options available. Playing say, Iman Shumpert more and forcing Durant to beat them with his jumpshot more than his drive is one. So is overcommitting and funneling the ball to someone like Thompson, who has notably faded to the background and has hit more than three triples in a postseason game once this year, meaning Thursday’s 0-for-5 mark from deep wasn’t exactly a shocking development.
The other side, of course, is the Warriors will have counters ready. And no schematic adjustments matter when an isolation-heavy offense sees LeBron turn it over eight times and Kyrie Irving four times to Golden State’s four overall.
Even though this all sounds dire for Cleveland, it seemed the same last year, though to a lesser degree. There’s no time like the present for Lue and LeBron to dream up a way to modernize and adapt what looks like an outdated approach after riding it through a laughable Eastern Conference.
For the Warriors, the key is weathering the adaption storm, which obviously didn’t work a season ago. Durant aims to change that, which could mean more passing and less scoring. Shifting some of those 38 points to his eight assists moving forward shouldn’t be too much to ask if it comes with a ring, though, right?
Such are the interesting dilemmas facing both sides heading into Sunday evening, where Cleveland’s ability to change will foreshadow the rest of the series. Maybe not as much as normal based on what happened last year, but enough to make this series just as entertaining.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified. Odds via OddsShark.
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com
from Bleacher Report – NBA http://ift.tt/2sBegSr