The Cavs, who have to play perfect basketball to beat the Warriors, did not play perfect basketball last night in Game 1, so they did not beat the Warriors. They turned over the rock 20 times and ceded 27 fast break points, which is not all that shocking given their piss-poor transition defense during the regular season and the Warriors’ deep armada of shooters. What is a bit more surprising is how sloppily the Warriors played on their way to a blowout win. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green didn’t do much on offense at all (though it should be noted that both were nails on defense), and the team missed 15 shots in the paint in the first half, giving up oodles of free points in the process. Zaza Pachulia looked better shooting the ball backwards after drawing fouls than he did cashing in on wide-open layups.
This is, of course, because the Warriors can roll out a two-man combo of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry and get a good shot every trip down the floor. They weren’t even running pick-and-roll for a good chunk of the game, because they didn’t have to get separation. Durant led the way with 38 points on 26 shots, and he took pretty much whatever he wanted all night. His signature behind-the-back pull-up was crisp enough to send Richard Jefferson sprawling, and he canned half of his three-pointers. The defining chunk of Game 1, however, wasn’t anything he did in the half court, but rather the six wide-open dunks he dunked in transition. Those few possessions laid bare the brutal impossibility of defending both Durant and Curry at the same time and resulted in some of the easiest buckets of Durant’s career.
When Durant had the ball on the break, the Cavs were faced with the choice: throw bodies in his way and risk Curry picking them apart from three, or stay home on Steph and risk a huge dunk. They were scared enough of Curry’s range that they went to comical lengths to keep him covered up. Look at J.R. Smith give up a wide-open lane to KD in order to stick with Steph.
A few minutes later, both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving jolted towards Curry after Durant dropped just the hint of a fake.
The Cavs chose to deny Curry a shot at three points and gave up two certain points every time, which is an absurd illustration of how difficult it is to defend both men at the same time. KD actually didn’t shoot that well outside of the paint in the first half, but he and Curry are both such good shooters that you can’t give them any daylight. In the third quarter, Durant got out on the run again, but this time, they closed down Durant’s drive. He simply flicked it to Curry, who buried a three and helped put the game out of reach in a big third-quarter run (the play in question is about 20 seconds into this video).
There are no easy answers for the Cavs, and their defense is weaker than last year, while the Warriors added even another gear to their offense. Unless LeBron hulks out and somehow manages to completely erase either Curry and Durant from the game, one of them will be able to work for an open shot every single time down the floor. Even if Cleveland sells out and gives both of them trouble, the Warriors’ contingency plan features three All-Stars who can all nail threes. Of course, Golden State was the odds-on favorite who couldn’t be stymied this time last year, and look what happened. The problem is, Durant is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, and he leaves you nowhere to hide.