A coach’s observations from Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Much has been written about this year’s NBA finals match-up between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Basketball enthusiasts all over the world salivated at the prospect of a Steph Curry-LeBron James match up over a historic best-of-seven series. The Warriors are chasing their first title since 1975 while the Cavs are fighting for their first ever one.

The first game was played yesterday, which saw the Warriors winning 108-100 in overtime. Both teams played well and all of their superstars showed why they were labelled as such. Below are my observations during the game:

Cavs:

  1. The Cavs’ transition defense was excellent. They minimised one of the Warriors’ threat – fastbreaks.
  2. The Cavs did a great job in closing out the Warriors’ three-point shooters.
  3. Mozgov and Tristan Thompson played very well. Mozgov changed a lot of the Warriors’ shots while Tristan Thompson rebounded tremendously well.
  4. There were too many isolation plays involving LBJ. Although effective, with James scoring 44, it’s never going to be enough in any series, let alone with the Warriors.
  5. JR Smith went cold in the second half. I really believe that he needs to step up to be able to help the Cavs win some games.
  6. Their bench did not show up.
  7. Kyrie played a LOT of minutes. Although he was spectacular until he got injured, Blatt should have monitored his minutes.

Warriors:

  1. Their bench saved them. Mo Speights, Iguodala and Livingston played very well, especially in the second quarter.
  2. Curry heated up in the second quarter. Following a big lift from their bench players, Steph Curry and his team shot their way back from a 14-point deficit in the second quarter which changed the game completely.
  3. They defended ‘smartly’ and with discipline. Thanks most probably to Ron Adams (asst. coach and defensive specialist), they allowed LBJ to have his way against multiple defenders but did not collapse their defense when he went into the paint. James ‘only’ registered 6 assists last night.
  4. Small ball closed it out. Coach Kerr’s decision to put Green on the 5 and Barnes on 4 in overtime allowed multiple switching on defense, gang rebounding and a quicker pace, leading to a better defensive performance and higher energy levels which ultimately closed the game out. The Cave scored only 2 points during the overtime period.
  5. Thank goodness for Klay. I assume that the outcome of this game would be the opposite had Klay not been cleared to play. He suffered from concussion symptoms after he took a knee to his head during their close-out game against the Rockets. He played well on both ends of the floor.
  6. They turned down easy lay-ups throughout the game. The length of the Cavs (and the undeniable presence of Mozgov) forced the Warriors to kick the ball out instead of finishing in the rim in a number of occassions during the game.
  7. Turnovers nearly cost them the game. The Warriors need to take care of the ball better next game.

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