OAKLAND, Calif. – After a weeklong layoff, the NBA playoffs resumed Thursday at Oracle Arena with Kevin Durant reminding everyone why Golden State made him such a priority in free agency last offseason.
The Warriors routed the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-91 in Game 1 of the best-of-seven NBA Finals behind 38 points from Durant in the third straight championship matchup between these two teams.
“We could be a lot better than we were tonight,” Durant said. “I’m only as good as my teammates. And Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson] and Draymond [Green] and Zaza [Pachulia] and the rest of the guys, we just complement each other, try to complement each other and try to make the game easier for each other.”
It was an impressive start to “The Trilogy” as the clubs combined for 65 first-quarter points before a sellout crowd of 19,596, putting to rest any concerns about rust from the long break between the conference finals and the NBA’s main event.
Durant, who also finished with eight rebounds, eight assists and zero turnovers, had six dunks in the first half, driving and getting out in transition to take advantage of Cleveland’s mission to run the Warriors’ shooters off the 3-point line.
“That was just – that was organic,” Durant said. “I was just – I don’t know. I don’t know when I’m going to dunk or when I’m going to get the wide-open three. I just go out there and play.”
It was a completely different feeling inside Oracle Arena on Thursday – as the Warriors won their 13th consecutive playoff game – compared to how last season’s Finals ended, with Cleveland coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to win a close Game 7. The Warriors led by as many as 24 and weren’t challenged in the second half. They were disciplined and sharp, committing only four turnovers in the game. The Cavs had 20 total turnovers and failed to find a rhythm after staying close in the first quarter, thanks to making 8 of 10 free-throw attempts.
“Having 20 turnovers and not being able to get back and get your defense set, they really take advantage of that, especially at home,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “And they thrive off turnovers and getting out in transition.”
Curry had 28 points and 10 assists to complement Durant and make up for a poor shooting night from Thompson. While Thompson gave an excellent defensive effort, he went 3 of 16 for six points and wasn’t a factor offensively.
“Give Klay Thompson a ton of credit,” Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown said, “because he’s out there fighting over screens, getting hit, trying to contest, trying to rebound, trying to do it all for us defensively.”
Kyrie Irving had 24 points and Kevin Love had 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting and 21 rebounds for Cleveland.
The Warriors led 60-52 at halftime because of Durant’s 23 first-half points and outrebounded Cleveland on the offensive glass 11-7.
LeBron James was brilliant as usual, posting 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, but he didn’t get much help from the Cavs’ reserves, who combined for 21 points on 6-of-24 shooting. Turnovers piled up for James in the second half and he finished with eight while struggling to create a spark for the Cavs. Cleveland shot 34.9 percent for the game and 35.5 percent from 3-point range.
Golden State shot 42.5 percent from the floor, but attempted 20 more shots than Cleveland (106 to 86) and executed precisely in a third quarter it won 33-20 to push its lead to 21 points.
“Well, there’s no way you can simulate the Warriors’ offense,” Irving said.
Said Lue: “They’re the best I’ve ever seen.”
Game 2 is 8 p.m. ET Sunday at Oracle Arena.
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