By Jack Ryan
The Golden State Warriors scored an easy 113-91 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers to strike the first blow in the best-of-seven series.
Kevin Durant collected 38 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists to lead the Warriors, who shredded their defenders.
“We feel like we should be able to attack every on every single play, and our guys did that,” said Mike Brown, the Warriors’ acting head coach.
Stephen Curry, who scored 28 points, demoralized the Cavaliers early in the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Warriors’ lead to 20. They led by 21 entering the fourth. Golden State took great care of the ball throughout, finishing with 31 assists and four turnovers.
“I wouldn’t imagine it,” Brown said of that disparity, “especially going into Game 1 against that team.”
LeBron James, whose play for the Cavaliers through the first three rounds was virtually flawless, finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists but committed 8 turnovers. He was also assigned to defend Durant for much of the game, and that did not go well for him.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” James said. “They capitalized.”
Kyrie Irving scored 24 points for Cleveland, and Kevin Love added 15.
Undefeated in the playoffs, the Warriors have not lost a game since April 10, their second-to-last game of the regular season.
“We could be a lot better than we were tonight,” he said.
For the Cavaliers, it was a return to the site of their greatest triumph. In Game 7 of last year’s finals, on this same court, the Cavaliers completed an improbable and unprecedented comeback to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy before a dazed crowd at Oracle Arena. It was a bitter end to a historic season for the Warriors.
Since then, both teams had made changes — some major, some subtle. The Warriors added Durant to their already high-octane roster. (Put that in the “major” category.) They also signed experienced role players like Zaza Pachulia and David West. The Cavaliers engineered their own midseason face-lift, acquiring point guard Deron Williams and the 3-point specialist Kyle Korver.
It had been 10 days since the Warriors completed their four-game sweep of the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, went a week between games after eliminating the Boston Celtics in five games in the Eastern Conference finals.
But while the Warriors have made their journey through the playoffs look almost effortless, they continue to cope with an unconventional situation. Midway through the first round, Coach Steve Kerr stepped away from his day-to-day duties to deal with continuing medical problems. On Thursday, Brown again manned the Warriors’ bench.
Kerr, who has remained actively involved behind the scenes, watched the game on television from the home locker room.
The Cavaliers’ primary challenge was obvious: somehow slowing a team with the greatest assemblage of offensive talent in league history. In previous rounds, James had been conserved energy by defending lesser players. For however long this series lasts, no such vacations will be forthcoming.
“We know coming into this building, it’s going to be a tough game for us,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “But just getting a chance to see how they play, their style of play, how fast they play — you can’t simulate that at practice.”
James guarded Durant — or tried as best he could. With 3-point threats like Curry and Thompson dragging defenders to the perimeter, Durant found seams to the basket. He had six dunks in the first half alone.
“I don’t know when I’m going to dunk or when I’m going to get the wide-open 3,” Durant said. “I just try to go out there and play.”
The Warriors are renowned for their 3-point shooting, but they spent the bulk of Thursday’s game dismantling the Cavaliers in the interior. The Warriors scored 42 points in the lane as they ran out to a 60-52 lead at halftime. The Cavaliers were not doing themselves any favors, committing 12 turnovers in the half — seven by James. The Warriors committed one.