Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined to score 20 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, their lowest output of the season. Nevertheless, the Warriors ran away from the Cavs, leading by 20 in the fourth quarter and winning, 104-89.
“That was not a scenario that anybody anticipated,” CSN Bay Area Warriors play-by-play voice Bob Fitzgerald said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “But Cleveland sent multiple bodies at Steph and Klay to the point where they were just daring Warrior reserves to beat them – and the bench beat them, 45-10. So that was one gambit by Tyronn Lue. Okay let’s take a shot at it and see if the Warriors’ ancillary players can beat us. Well, they found out that they can. And the Cavs also got shackled, shooting only 38 percent. The Warriors are an elite defensive team, and they reminded everybody of that. So for the Cavs, they got until Sunday to figure something out. I guarantee Steph and Klay will not have only 20 points on Sunday.”
Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa and Andre Iguodala combined for 43 points on 18-of-24 shooting (75 percent) in Game 1. Barbosa, in fact, was a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor, as Golden State’s bench accounted for 45 points, 10 assists and just one turnover.
“That’s not going to happen (again),” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the point. This was an opportunity game for Cleveland. They had taken the lead in the third quarter and then a blow to the boys led to a blowout. Once Iguodala got hit in the nether regions, the Warriors went on a 25-8 run. You don’t want to make the Warriors mad. When they tend to get a little angry, then tend to play really well.”
Fitzgerald, by the way, thought Matthew Dellavedova’s hit to Iguodala’s midsection was intentional.
“Dellavedova is involved in all of these type of things,” he said. “People don’t ever want to ever say someone’s a dirty player. That guy’s a dirty player. He’s not good enough to deal with some of these guys on a physical level, so he’s got to be an irritant and cross the line a lot. When you’re involved in like five of these incidents over a two-year period, there’s not a randomness to some of your behavior.”
Either way, the Warriors are now just three wins away from back-to-back championships – stunning given where the franchise was for the last quarter of a century and beyond. Golden State has gone from NBA doormat to global phenomenon in the blink of an eye.
“I’ve been with the team for 23 years and they went 17 straight without a playoff season,” Fitzgerald said. “You could see the build in terms of 47 wins, 51 wins. But the hyper-leap to 67 and then the league-record 73 and then you look at a 24-0 start, 54 straight home runs, 34 wins on the road – these are all records for the league. And then to come from 3-1 down against Oklahoma City, to do it with Bob Myers and Steve Kerr and Joe Lacob, with Steph Curry and Klay and the guys that are all good guys in addition to phenomenal basketball payers – they really are the league’s darling. And from a global standpoint, everybody wants to check out the Warriors for how they play, how well they play. I think it’s infectious that the style and the way the guys carry themselves is the right way to do things.”
Since the beginning of last year’s Finals, the Warriors are 7-2 against Cleveland and have held the Cavs under 100 points eight times. Cleveland reached the century mark just once, scoring exactly 100 points in an overtime loss to the Warriors in Game 1 of the 2015 Finals.
“LeBron, he’s a magnificent player and this year he brings much more shooters around him,” Fitzgerald said. “I think the problem for the Cavs is the step up from the East to the West is a major deep-end-of-the-pool leap. That’s kind of the problem. Cleveland rolled out and they got a double-double from Tristan Thompson and they got a double-double from Kevin Love and LeBron and Kyrie both had decent games, but the volume it took them to shoot to score that many points and still not sniff 100 – that’s a problem.”
Irving needed 26 shots to score 22 points. James needed 21 to score 23. Love need 17 to score 17.
“The Warriors are going to be in triple digits pretty much every game, and so it’s going to take an insane three-part shooting barrage for Cleveland to grab a couple of these games,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re capable of doing that.”
Capable, yes, but can they do it? We’ll find out Sunday in Game 2. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. ET.