The Splash Brothers were pretty poor in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. They know it.
They’re not exactly fretting after combining for only 20 points.
“We joked about it a couple times,” Klay Thompson said Saturday. “Bad shooting nights happen.”
Thompson and dynamic teammate Stephen Curry were off the mark for the Golden State Warriors but, luckily for them, the Cleveland Cavaliers were worse.
Game 2 is Sunday at Oracle Arena, and nobody expects the Warriors’ All-Stars to play as poorly as they did Thursday. This is potentially not-so-fun news for Cleveland.
Despite the rare foibles of the Warriors’ duo in the opener, Cleveland lost, 104-89.
If Lebron James doesn’t want to become the fourth player to lose in the Finals five times, the Cavaliers will want to be better than the isolation-heavy team that faltered badly in the latter stages of Game 1.
It was boring basketball, predictable for sure. Even James’ coach told him to speed it up a little, be more generous with passing and not get bogged down in one-on-one basketball.
It’s not easy being James. A fairly important person in NBA history stood up for him Saturday, someone who consulted for the Warriors, no less.
Jerry West went 1-8 in the NBA Finals with the Lakers, channeling victory only in the 1972 championship against New York. He lost to Boston seemingly year after year. He’s tired of hearing about James’ inability to win the big one.
“If I were him, I’d probably want to strangle” any critics, West told reporters Saturday. “He’s carried teams on his shoulders. He’s been to the Finals six straight times. How many times has he been the favorite? None. Zero. Grossly unfair to him.
“It’s no fun to get there that many times and not get the results you want regardless of how you played. In the playoffs, the best players are supposed to play better. I did. It made no difference.”
It was a somewhat unexpected defense even from the fiery West. Kind pro-James words to be sure. But, frankly, James wouldn’t want to fall to 2-5 in the Finals.
An Ohio native, he feels an enormous burden to deliver the Cavaliers the first championship of their 46-year existence. Not to mention getting Cleveland its first major sports championship since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. This was before the Super Bowl existed, to be clear.
Only one game has been played so far in this series. James advocated for more team play, a generally good idea after the Cavaliers shot a lowly 38% Thursday.
“You win a championship, we all don’t get an individual trophy,” James said Saturday, laughing. “You all get your individual rings but at the end of the day, it’s about a team.”
James, whose two titles were with Miami, wasn’t the only one to blame in Game 1. Hot-and-cold shooting guard J.R. Smith was a statue, taking three shots and scoring three points. Of greater importance, Kyrie Irving took 22 shots but made only seven, an unacceptable percentage for the three-time All-Star.
“We want Kyrie to be aggressive, but it has to be sharp, quick attacks,” Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue said. “You can’t dribble for eight or nine seconds. We had that discussion, and he understands that.”
The Cavaliers aren’t the only ones discussing things.
If not for reserves Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa, the Warriors might have dropped the opener at home. Livingston’s 20 points in particular were a big boost.
Curry and Thompson were thankful, obviously. They’re trying to win a second consecutive title after the Warriors were shut out for 40 long years.
They know they can’t keep combining to make eight of 27 shots (29.6%).
“I expect to be much better individually,” Thompson said. “Hopefully the same [game] result.”