OAKLAND, Calif. — Following a sound 113-91 defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, both Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and forward LeBron James fed into the perception of the Warriors’ invincibility.
Albeit with a degree of sarcasm.
“They’re the best I ever seen,” Lue said flatly during his postgame remarks when a reporter asked him to comment on the Warriors’ record 13-0 start to the postseason.
The reporter, not picking up on Lue’s tongue-in-cheek remark, asked the Cavs coach to elaborate on his statement.
“They’re the best I ever seen,” Lue repeated. “I mean, no other team has done this, right? So 13-0, and they constantly break records every year, last year being 73-9, this year starting the playoffs 13-0. So, they’re playing good basketball. But we can play better.”
It would be hard to imagine the Cavs playing much worse. Cleveland committed 20 turnovers Thursday, while the Warriors had just four, which was tied for the lowest number of turnovers for a team in Finals history. The 16-turnover differential between the two teams was the widest in Finals history.
Cleveland shot just 34.9 percent from the field as a team and managed just 39 second-half points as an eight-point deficit at intermission swelled to a 22-point loss.
Before the Finals, James had called Golden State both a “juggernaut” and a “beast” while crowing the Warriors as the best team in the league over the past three seasons on two separate occasions — despite Cleveland beating them for the championship last season, of course. On Thursday he was more genuine in his praise, starting with appreciation for Kevin Durant‘s 38 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in the opener.
“KD,” James said when asked what stood out about the Warriors’ romp. “I mean, you take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year, that we saw in the regular season and in the postseason, and then in the offseason, you add a high-powered offensive talent like that and a great basketball IQ like that, that’s what stands out.
“I mean, it’s no ifs, ands or buts. It is what it is. We got to figure out how to combat that, which is going to be a tough challenge for us.”
It was the third straight time the Cavs fell 1-0 to the Warriors in the Finals and dropped James’ career Finals record to 1-7 in Game 1. It was the worst of those seven Game 1 losses; the previous worst was 15-point defeats in 2016 at Golden State and 2014 at San Antonio.
“I wasn’t surprised at anything,” James said. “They are a high-powered offensive team. They can shoot the ball from the perimeter; they can get into the paint. They do everything exceptionally well, if not great. So never surprised by anything they do.”
James was asked what his message to the Cavs was after the loss.
“Just get focused on Game 2,” James said. “We made a lot of mistakes. There’s nothing really needs to be said. We know we’re capable of playing a lot better. We didn’t play as well as we know we’re capable of, so we look forward to the next one.”