There’s a reason the Warriors’ motto is “Strength in Numbers.” They have so many different guys who can beat you.
Tonight, those guys came off the bench.
If I told you before the game that the Splash Brothers, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, shoot 8-27 and score just 20 combined points, you’d probably guess that the Warriors would lose Game 1.
Instead, the Warriors’ bench picked up the offensive slack, outscoring Cleveland’s bench 45-10 and sparking a huge third-quarter run that essentially won the game for Golden State.
Before Game 1 I wrote that I thought Shaun Livingston would have a much better series and could potentially swing a game the Warriors’ way. Tonight was that game. He scored a playoff career-high 20 points in 27 minutes, hitting a barrage of midrange jumpers and continually rising up over smaller Cleveland defenders.
The Cavaliers have to be very frustrated to lose on a night where Curry and Thompson were so unproductive, but their defense was poor all night long. They continually made communication errors on switches and left Golden State open from deep way too many times. To their credit, they were hyper-attentive whenever Steph and Klay had the ball behind the three-point line, but they too often forgot about the other players on the floor.
On this transition play, for example, the Cavs are so concerned about giving up a three to Klay Thompson that they let Andre Iduodala get to the rim for a dunk.
Kyrie Irving was particularly bad. He failed to switch multiple times and visually frustrated Tristan Thompson. The Warriors forced him to defend both in the pick-and-roll and run through a maze of screens off the ball and he failed both tasks. Irving was also an inefficient 7-22 from the field and took the Cavs out of their offense to run an isolation play far too many times.
The Warriors also seemed to simply wear the Cavs down. Tyronn Lue said before the series that he still wanted to play uptempo and that may prove a mistake. The quick pace seemed to tire LeBron James, who got to the rim at will in the first quarter, but faded down the stretch. The Warriors lost the rebounding battle, but did such an excellent job of defending at the rim that it almost didn’t matter.
If the Cavs continue to play that kind of defense, it’s hard to picture them having enough to win the series. Golden State’s defense is simply too good and they have too many ways to beat the Cavs offensively. Livingston probably won’t have another 20 point night, but its also just as unlikely that the Splash Brothers play that poorly.
Strength in Numbers. The Warriors simply have more of them and tonight they took their first step towards raising a second straight championship banner.