Cavs' role players go silent, outdone by Warriors' depth in Game 1

Cavs' role players go silent, outdone by Warriors' depth in Game 1

OAKLAND -- The Cavs trio of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love went from being a Big 3, to an only three Thursday evening at Oracle Arena. 
As Zaza Pachulia spun circus shots off the glass for buckets, Tristan Thompson went 0-for-3 from the field, finishing with with zero points and four rebounds. Klay Thompson had one of the worst shooting performances of his career and still managed to outscore J.R. Smith 6-3. 
With the Warriors getting contributions from almost every player that stepped on the floor, the Cavs secondary pieces stayed quiet in Game 1 of the Finals. 
When asked about the lack of support from the complimentary players, James sent a positive message to his teammates.
“Play with energy, play with effort, play with their mind and their bodies and understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” James told a packed room of media members following the game.
James stuffed the stat sheet for the reigning champs, dropping in 28 points, 15 rebounds and dishing eight assists. He also added a game-high eight turnovers for Cleveland, which doubled the Warriors entire team total for the game. 
Despite the turnovers, James’ numbers sound incredible. That is until you compare them to Kevin Durant’s 38-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist night, zero-turnover evening. 
When asked what stood out to him in the loss, James pointed directly towards Durant, who wasn’t a member of the Warriors last season when Cleveland erased a 3-1 deficit and took home the title.
“You take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year that we saw in the regular season and the postseason and then in the offseason you add a high-powered offensive talent like that, with a great basketball IQ like that, that’s what stands out,” James said. “There’s no if, ands or buts. It is what is what it is. We’ve got to figure out how to combat that which will be a tough challenge for us.”
While the Cavs rushed to guard the 3-point line in transition, Durant looked like he was all alone attacking the rim. The former MVP put on a highlight reel of dunks in the first half, most of which came without a single Cleveland player in the frame.
“We’ve got to make it much tougher on,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “Can’t give a great scorer like Durant easy baskets like that, especially in transition, especially early. So we got to do a better job of taking that away.”
It was a gut punch for the Cavs. They were outclassed in almost every aspect of the game. Golden State outshot them 42.5 percent to 34.9 percent. They turned the ball over just four times as a team, compared to 20 for the Cavs. The Warriors dished out 31 assists to just 15 for Cleveland and Golden State held a 27-9 advantage in fast break points.
“There’s no time to be disappointed,” Irving said. “I think that just thinking about the next game, things that we can correct going forward. They capitalized on a lot of our mistakes, a lot of transition, easy baskets that we can’t allow going into Game 2.”
Irving was one of the few Cleveland players to have a solid game. He attacked the rim, scoring 24 points on 10-for-22 shooting, but like James, he was outdone by his counterpart. 
Stephen Curry knocked down 6-for-11 from behind the arc on his way to 28 points and 10 assists. He was electric in the third, scoring 14 points in the quarter as the Warriors ran away from the Cavs.
For every big performance, the Warriors had a counter and then some. 
Love struggled from the field, but still managed to post 15 points and 21 rebounds. No other player scored in double figures for Cleveland. 
Only Durant and Curry notched double figures for Golden State, but Pachulia, Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee all had moments where they effected the game in a positive way. All 13 players that entered the game finished with a positive plus/minus and each of them scored with the exception of Patrick McCaw, who played just three minutes.
“No other team has done this, right?” Lue asked. “So 13-0, and they’re constantly breaking 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.”
The Warriors have star power, just like the Cavs. They also have a group of hungry role players trying to forget about last season’s collapse. If Cleveland has any chance of making this a series, they’ll need someone other than their Big 3 to show up come Sunday. Even then, they are facing a team that cut through every other opponent like a buzzsaw. 

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Because it’s only two games against two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s prudent to resist the temptation to fall in love with Quinn Cook.

Putting up Stephen Curry numbers in consecutive games does not make one Stephen Curry.

It’s impossible, though, not to clearly understand why the Warriors have consistently expressed faith in Cook, the two-way point guard who has spent three years trying to make an NBA team.

Two fine games are enough, though, for the coaching staff to recommend adding him to the postseason roster. It’s wise to have a contingency in case Curry has to miss any of the games that matter most, and the Warriors are a smart bunch.

Cook on Saturday told reporters in Phoenix that the Warriors have not addressed the possibility of being on the postseason roster. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

“He’s proven that he can compete at this level,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday night in Phoenix. “The last couple games, you’re seeing what he can do. He’s a great shooter. We’ve known that."

Cook scored, on back-to-back nights, 25 and 28 points, shooting 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field, including 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep. That’s Curry-type quality when he’s on a roll. Cook also handled the ball well, recorded seven assists and was pesky enough on defense to nab five steals.

“Quinn is showing the world that he is an NBA player,” Draymond Green said.

Cook’s 10 3-pointers over the past two games are more than anybody not named Curry, Durant or Thompson have drained over a similar stretch -- and only Nick Young among the team’s reserves have made more over any single month.

The Warriors, it just so happens, are dead last in 3-pointers made by reserves, averaging 2.0 per game, with Young accounting for 1.5 per game.

Cook is showing he might be able to help with this.

Kerr loves 3-point shooters. General manager Bob Myers is fond of saying he can never have too many shooters.

The Warriors are discovering they can’t have too many capable point guards, particularly when Cook is proving that he, like Curry, also is comfortable playing off the ball. Pairing Cook with Shaun Livingston, the primary backup to Curry, is a nice option to have.

“I’ve said all along,” Green said. “I sit here and watch so many other teams play and I wonder, ‘How is Quinn Cook a two-way player?' And then you’ve got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, or can’t go left, can’t go right, but you’ve got a guy like that as a two-way player.

“So I’m happy for him. I pray that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”

Cook had brief trial runs with the Pelicans, as a rookie, and the Mavericks last season. He played a total of 14 games with the two teams. He has played 21 with the Warriors, seven as a starter, but only in the last two has he looked entirely comfortable in his role and with these teammates.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out, the Warriors need Cook to score. He knows he needs to score. He is scoring. And doing a few other things, too.

“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Cook said after his 28-point performance in a win over the Suns. “I can’t really put it into words, just being able to put on an NBA jersey night in and night out, practice with an NBA team every day, has been my goal since I can remember. I’m just trying to get better every day and live in the moment. I’m just trying to win games. I’m trying to help out as much as possible, whether it’s getting guys shots, playing defense, shooting the ball.

“Lately the ball’s been going in a little bit. But with three All-Stars out, I’ve got to step up. I’m just taking it game by game and competing night in and night out.”

Sometime early next month, if not late this month, the Warriors expect to have their starting backcourt. Curry and Thompson will have returned before the playoffs begin April 14-15, and both will need to be available if for reasonable chance to repeat as champs.

But Cook is making his case for inclusion. He’ll get another test Monday night in San Antonio, where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to throw at Cook a few wrinkles he may not have seen, but the Warriors have seen enough to know he can help.

“He’s a good fit for us, too,” Kerr said. “It’s not just his ability. It’s his maturity. He’s very professional, does whatever is asked, the guys love him. They want to go to war with him.

“He’s a guy. He’s an NBA guy. We’re lucky to have him.”

That’s not an demand, or even a preference. To add Cook to the roster, the Warriors would have to shed one of their 15 players currently on a standard NBA contract.

But somewhere among Kerr’s words, I believe I see an endorsement.

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.