1) Players from both sides downplayed the importance of this game prior to tip-off, but the “just another game” facade quickly gave way to truer feelings in the early going. Both sides looked to be running on an extra dose of adrenaline, missing open shots and throwing the ball away unforced. Fortunately for Golden State, Draymond was able to settle the team down on both ends of the court playing ferocious defense while throwing up a 10/6/3/2 line in the game’s first 12 minutes. Who would have ever thought that on a court with Curry, Lebron, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Klay Thompson, Draymond Green would be the best player in the game. But check the stats: Dray dropped 22 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, dished 7 assists and had 2 blocks to go with a standout defensive effort that saw him guard all five positions and straight rip the ball out of LBJ’s hands in midair. Opponents shot only 4-19 against him per ESPN Stats and Info. On a night of top-10 players doing top-10 things for a national audience, Dray might have been the toppest of them all.
2) The Warriors went with the recently-dormant Green-at-center lineup to close out the game, and Kevin Love’s defense at the five was a clear target as Curry dropped two layups in a row to stop a Cleveland run. I thought the Cavs would have had a better chance on both sides of the court had Tristan Thompson’s offensive rebounding and defense been in for Love.
3) Curry shot only 6-15 for 19 points on an injured calf. Although he won’t always have a good-shooting game, Steph’s gravity on the court will always be consistent in pulling defenders towards him. The Cavs trapped him hard multiple times which freed up the rest of the Warriors to carve up a scrambling 3-on-4 defense. Shaun Livingston had 16 points, Iguodala chipped in with 7, and Klay added another 18. Curry was 12 points off his scoring average but finished with a game-high plus-15 point differential. That’s MVP-level influence in a game where he shot 40 percent.
4) The two guys who would have supposedly swung last year’s Finals in the Cavs’ favor went a combined 9-31 from the field in 64 minutes of play. To be fair, Love had 18 rebounds and Kyrie is still working himself back from injury. But to be more fair, the injury argument was always a weak one because…
5) Prior to the finals, Love had missed 135 regular season games in his first seven seasons and Kyrie had missed 22 percent of his pro career after playing only 11 games in one season at Duke. Saying the Cavs would have won the title last season had their habitually injured players not been injured is like the punchline to that Chris Rock joke: you can’t blame the tiger for going tiger.
6) NBA players should be commended more for their ability to keep their composure and not just punch opponents in the face sometimes. I don’t condone violence, but just about anyone who has ever played a pickup game would’ve slugged Delladova after he rolled into Andre’s legs from behind. In case you forgot, Delly has a history of this.
7) My favorite play of the game. Guarding one of the most devastating transition players of all time on the break, Iguodala busted out the E-Honda hands on Lebron to cleanly swipe at the ball once with his right and then again with his left to force the turnover. Andre had a great game defending LBJ, helping to force him into a 10-26/4 turnover/minus-9 stat line.
8) Mark Jackson said a curious thing. In describing Steph’s effect on young players across America, he said, “to a degree, he’s hurt the game.” His argument is that kids are eschewing other parts of the game to practice shooting threes when it’s not realistic to expect to become as good of a shooter as Curry. While that may be true, my counter is that practicing shooting and practicing other facets of the game are not mutually exclusive. A kid can practice both layups and threes. Or even better, that kid can practice layups, runners, mid-range shots, dribbling, threes and more! And maybe even all in the same practice. This just so happens to be Curry’s routine before each game. Maybe Mark should join the hundreds of fans who come early to watch.
9) Ian Clark almost made himself the star of Vine for a night on a quizzical Lebron turnover. But then Lebron remembered he is Lebron and did a Lebron thing.
10) My dad watched the final few minutes of the game with me. He only watches about 20 minutes of basketball a year and knows Steph as “gah-leh” which is how one says “curry” in Cantonese. Surprisingly, he was enjoying the game … until the hack-a started. After I explained to him why Delladova just jumped all over Iguodala’s back like his granddaughter when she wants a piggyback ride, my dad said, “that’s dumb” and stood up and left the room. Couldn’t agree more. Worst part of an otherwise entertaining game.