Game 1 of the Finals was exciting from the first minute to the last. A lot happened in the 53 minutes of play, so WTLC brought together the roundtable to analyze what we saw in Game 1.
1)What was your initial reaction to Game 1?
R.K. Anthony: It played out early about as I expected. Golden State's starters with that deer in the headlights look were tight, both teams were. Pretty much on cue, LeBron got his bunch going first and they went on a run, but when GS's second unit put up 6 points in the final 1:15 of the 1st quarter capped off with Iguodala slam at the buzzer it was a huge momentum changer.
When they battled to a 25-25 fourth quarter tie I felt like we could really have a good Finals on our hands.
Justin Danziger: It was one of the more exhilarating Finals games I've seen, in that, every quarter felt like the fourth. Awesome steals and runs on transition here, unthinkable LeBron shots there, it was everything we could have wanted in Game 1. I came to several realizations throughout the game. 1) That LeBron guy is good at basketball. 2) So is that Stephen Curry guy. 3) The winner of this series is going to be the team that is the deepest and the team that is going to close out games. The Cavs were in full speed mode all 48 minutes (until obviously collapsing in overtime), but the Warriors proved it takes a team to win.
Marina Mangiaracina: Relief. As someone who's followed the Warriors since I was a kid, seeing this run has been absolutely unbelievable. I'm glad the Warriors could stop LeBron when it mattered, and that the team isn't just a Curry or Klay fest. Every Warrior gets a chance on offense because they each brings something unique to the table. In that sense, Golden State is a team without a Dion Waiters or a Reggie Jackson. The Warriors all just seem to be positive people who believe in a system that uses all of their strengths. I've spent all season watching the Thunder struggle to move the ball, and the Warriors seem to do it so effortlessly. And the off-ball movement from the Dubs is some of the best I've ever seen. Also, Golden State was 91% from the line! I could go on and on. What a bunch of ballers.
Ali AlShowaikh: I was surprised. I believe I overly under-estimated the Warriors in the following series, and especially as I am rooting for the Cavaliers. I was surprised on how the Warriors were able to shut down the Cavs despite James outstanding performance.
J.A. Sherman: Based on how the Warriors have started their past 3 series, I expected them to come out a bit slow and cautious. They are a team of superb adjustments, even in-game, and don't really kick things into high gear until they figure out how they want to attack. The surprise to me was how sharp the Cavs looked early on, although given how many open jumpers they had vs the Hawks, maybe they were used to hitting jumpers and just continued apace.
The game evened itself out as the Warriors defense and bench exerted their dominance, but the Cavs showed a lot of resilience, putting themselves in a position to get the upset win.
2) Did you think the Warriors were going to lose once the Cavaliers got off to a decent-sized lead?
R.K.: Not really, the Warriors are too talented and well coached to panic that early. I'm a huge fan of Ron Adams and I felt like he could keep that #1 defense in lock down mode until Kerr woke up that #1 offense. He did.
Justin: I'll admit it, LeBron looked unstoppable and the Cavs were sharp, but then I realized that they are the Golden State Warriors and they overcame a 20 point deficit in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round. The minute LeBron stepped foot off the floor, Golden State gained a ton of momentum. The Warriors are too deep to slow down, and that's what makes them so good. Steve Kerr can feel comfortable subbing in a player like Marreese Speights (who helped switch the momentum), and these substitutes were a big reason why the Warriors won. Bottom line: you can never get comfortable against this team...no lead his safe.
Marina: No. The Warriors have been prone to slow starts, especially during their playoff run. Most of the time, Golden State is able to climb out of their own hole. I think the early deficits happen because all of Golden State's true veterans, sans Bogut, are on the bench. Those vets are the guys who know how to play a bit less emotionally, and get the team going in tough situations. Once the vets get positive energy going, especially at home, the starters can play to their potential. Another reason for the early deficits is the fact that Golden State has so many lineups. Against any given opponent, the starters might not necessarily be the best lineup to run for Golden State. In the case of this game, Kerr used three very different Warrior lineups in crunch time. (One lineup had Bogut, one had Ezeli, and the other was classic small ball.)
Ali: I didn't think the Warriors were going to lose due to a decent sized lead because I know they are good at launching comebacks. The only reason I felt the Warriors are going to lose is because of how LeBron James was playing in the game as he rarely ends up being defeated when he has those 40-points nights.
Sherman: No, GS came back from a 20 point deficit in the 4th quarter vs the Pelicans, so a 14 point deficit early on was nothing big to worry about. Where I really thought they were going to miss their chance though was in the 3rd quarter when they finally took a lead and then Barbosa had about 3-4 bad plays in a row that would have allowed them to stretch it. The Cavs couldn't capitalize, but it was a bad omen.
Then, when Kyrie had that crazy block on Curry's layup, I did think to myself that Cleveland had replicated Houston's efforts - put themselves in a position to win on the final play of the game. But then, LeBron James ran a terrible play where he wasted 20 seconds of shot clock and then forced a long contested 2-pointer (gee, that sounds familiar). OT was academic.
3) Who was the key player on both teams (someone other than Curry or LeBron)?
R.K.: For the Warriors, IMO, it's a no brainer. Andre Iguodala was brilliant on both ends. The slam at the end of the 1st quarter then steals the ball from LeBron and takes it in for the easy layup to end the 3rd to tie the game. Huge 3 pointers in the fourth, reeling the Cavs back when they were trying to pull away. His defense against LeBron? Amazing.
For the Cavs, the flip side, 23%? Really JR?
Justin: Andre Iguodala was key throughout the game in stopping LeBron. Well, I wouldn't call it stopping him, but Iggy held him to something along the lines of 4-14. He also finished off the third quarter with a brilliant "classic Iggy" dunk in transition to tie up the game, leaving the Oracle far from speechless.
For the Cavs, Timofey Mozgov was a standout on both ends of the ball. For a majority of the game, nothing was getting inside the paint, and that was because of Mozgov's presence. I think he saw every Warriors player as Blake Griffin because it looked like he had beef whenever he dunked the ball, which was many times. He finished the game with 16 points and 7 rebounds.
Marina: For Golden State, it was definitely Iguodala. Andre stopped LeBron SO MANY times in the late game. Kerr will probably keep Iguodala on LeBron only during the late game, simply to tire LeBron out with multiple defenders. Iguodala was also essential in triggering two key scoring plays as time expired in the first and third quarters.
For Cleveland, it was definitely Timofey Mozgov. Bogut has to spend his time defending the rim from LeBron, and this often left Mozgov open. The Cavs were sure to look for Mozgov near the rim. Also gotta give Mozgov credit for going 75% from the line. Unfortunately, this is probably the peak of Mozgov's usefulness, as he's simply not skilled enough to post up or shoot jumpers in this context.
Ali: As for the Warriors it was Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson. Iguodala's defense against James was remarkable. Thompson made a three-pointer in the last minutes of the game that helped the Warriors secure the win. Regarding the Cavaliers, it was Mozgov and Thompson. Both really stepped up their performance as big men down in the paint.
Sherman: Iguodala was the Warriors' MVP on the night. aside from the stats he put up (as well as knocking down a 3-pointer wearing only one shoe), it was his superb defense on James down the stretch that helped the Warriors get over the hump. Everyone raves about Iggy's intelligence and defense, and on those final few possessions you got to see it in full force.
For the Cavs, Irving gutted out an amazing performance before getting hurt and now being done for the series. Aside from his offense though, I was very surprised at his defensive effort. He's been known as a defensive turnstile, but he had some big steals as well as the aforementioned block on Curry. It's a shame he will not have any further impact on the series.
4) What would be your reaction if Iman Shumpert hit that putback to win the game?
R.K.: Warriors in 7 instead of Warriors in 6.
Justin: This tweet says it all.
I would've passed out if Shumpert hit that— Justin Danziger (@justin_danziger) June 5, 2015
Marina: I was making a pizza at the time, so I would have probably started a second one. And maaaaaybe thrown the remote into the couch in anger.
Ali: I would have been so happy and I'd be more determined in terms of the Cavaliers having a legitimate shot at the title.
Sherman: My thought would be, "And this just got very interesting." We've seen some great Finals moments over the years, but it is always fun getting to see a role player step up and out of himself to steal a win on the grand stage.
5) Is the series over since Kyrie Irving is out with a fractured knee cap?
R.K.: Cue up Don Merideth
Justin: It is hard to just say it is over because we are talking about LeBron James. It is fair to say that most of the upcoming games will not be like the one we witnessed Thursday night. Kyrie was an intricate part of Cleveland's success coming into the playoffs, and while they were fine without him against the Hawks, these Warriors are on a whole other level. I say Warriors in six because I have never seen LeBron more hungry for a title in his life.
Marina: Nope. The Cavaliers have Mike Miller and Shawn Marion. Both of them are ancient, but the playoffs is where old players shine. If nothing else, these guys can at least make smart decisions with the ball, hit open shots, and occasionally show a flash of their old selves. Oh, and don't underestimate the impact of Perk staring you down from the bench. As a Warriors fan, I simply can't be too cautious when talking about this series. Still, I've never felt more confident about the Warriors' chances. Dubs all day!
Ali: Sad but true unless the entire Cavaliers squad steps up because what I've learned from the 2014 NBA finals and 2015 Game 1 finals against the Warriors is that no matter how great a player is, teamwork is always needed.
Sherman: The series was over even before Kyrie got hurt. You might even argue that it was over when Kevin Love got hurt in the first round, but I'd actually argue (and have, repeatedly since last summer) that Cleveland made a mistake by trading Wiggins for Love. I never thought Cleveland would be good enough to take down any of the West's top 4 teams anyway, but allowing Wiggins to learn with LeBron would have turned them into a monster in future seasons.
Going in, I thought Golden State would win 4-1. Now, a sweep is all but certain because the Cavs don't have anyone left who can cause mismatch problems that will force the Warriors to do anything other than what they did in game 1, and now they don't have Kyrie to balance it out.
What did you think of the game? Let us know in the comments!