It wasn’t bad enough the Golden State Warriors overwhelmed defending champion Cleveland in winning Thursday’s NBA Finals opener 113-91.
The worse news for the Cavaliers and star playmaker LeBron James was that it wasn’t even the best effort for an undefeated squad whose 13-0 playoff win streak matches the longest in NBA playoff history.
“We could be a lot better than we were tonight, but in the finals, you get the W, we’ll take it,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said.
Durant scored 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and passed off eight assists while Stephen Curry added 28 points, sinking 6-of-11 3-pointers as Golden State dominated Cleveland in almost every area of the game.
The Warriors had 12 steals to none by Cleveland, outscored the Cavaliers 56-30 in the paint and 27-9 on fast breaks. They scored 21 points off 20 Cavaliers turnovers while making only four giveaways, tying the fewest by any team in any NBA Finals game.
“We feel like we can play much better, especially offensively, just finishing better around the rim,” Curry said. “There were open opportunities that we had because we were moving the ball well and trying to force them into a tough decision on the defensive end.
“The best thing was just our defensive presence and effort for 48 minutes. They’re going to make tough shots, so you’ve got to just keep pressing, sticking to the game plan but focus what’s in front of you.”
The Warriors seized a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that continues Sunday in Oakland.
While the Warriors are making NBA history as they did last year, they know the feeling will be bittersweet without a title. Last year the Cavaliers made the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, rallying from 3-1 down to take the title.
“We’ve been here before and know there’s a lot of work left to do,” Curry said.
Golden State’s Draymond Green grabbed 11 rebounds and scored nine points while making Cleveland’s Kevin Love work hard for his 15 points and 21 rebounds.
“Overall it was a complete team effort,” Green said. “We just tried to make him take tough shots. And he can still hit those shots. So we just got to continue to play great team defense.”
Warriors interim coach Mike Brown, filling in for Steve Kerr while he recovers from complications after back surgery, agrees with his stars that his team did not show its best in ripping the Cavaliers.
“I’m sure they feel like they could play better but we feel like we can shoot better,” Brown said. “We had some bunnies around the rim we didn’t finish that we normally finish. So that’s one area we can do a better job in.
“We can continue to get better.”
If they do, the Warriors could become the first team in NBA history to make an unbeaten playoff run to the title.
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