OAKLAND – Stephen Curry couldn’t buy a bucket, and Klay Thompson couldn’t steal one. And neither had much success following the other’s approach.
So the Warriors went about finding their money elsewhere, from just about everybody else. They uncovered more than enough.
Contributions from the bench rescued the Warriors and sank the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night at Oracle Arena. With Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala taking the lead, the Warriors laid waste Cleveland 104-89 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“We’ve talked about our depth for the last two years,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We rely on a lot of people. We play a lot of people, and we feel like we have a lot of talent on the bench that can come in and score when we need it."
The Warriors got 45 points from their bench. Livingston had 20, a team-high. Iguodala had 12, Leandro Barbosa 11. Festus Ezeli accounted for the other bucket. The subs shot 59.3 percent from the field.
But the scope of their performance went beyond scoring. The reserves also played stellar defense, particularly by Iguodala, and displayed crisp ball distribution (10 assists, one turnover) and showed an intellect and feel for the game.
“This is The Finals. Every possession really matters,” said Iguodala, who also had seven rebounds and six assists. “It felt like everyone who came off the bench tonight treated every possession like it could be their last. When you treat the game like that, and respect it, good things tend to happen.”
Such good things as 29 assists, the Warriors’ highest total since Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against Portland. Such good things as only nine turnovers, the Warriors’ lowest total this postseason. The Warriors also outscored Cleveland 54-42 in the paint.
Do all those good things, and they go a long way toward neutralizing the 47-41 rebounding disadvantage.
“I’m just really proud of the way everybody contributed,” said Curry, who scored 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting and committed five of those turnovers. “You don’t win championships without the entire squad coming in and making an impact on games.”
The entire squad, the bench in particular, sent a message the Cavaliers won’t care to see or hear: We are capable of beating you even when Steph and Klay barely show up.
Among Warriors starters only Draymond Green pulled more than his weight. He finished with 16 points, a team-high 11 rebounds, a team-high seven assists and a game-high four steals.
“I can’t remember the last time me and Steph combined for 20 points,” said Thompson, who scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. “But it’s not even about that. It’s about guys staying ready. Shaun Livingston played out of his mind, Iguodala as well. Draymond. I can go down the list. LB. Andy (Varejao).”
Cleveland’s bench was dreadful, scoring 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Channing Frye, the 3-point specialist, scored two points on free throws. Iman Shumpert made the only trey from the reserves.
“When you get outscored 45-10 on the bench and give up 25 points off 17 turnovers, no matter what someone does or doesn’t do, it’s going to be hard to win, especially on the road,” Cavs star LeBron James said. “And that’s what it was.”
Curry and Thompson got their share of open looks but simply were not converting. Cleveland’s defense was vulnerable on almost every level, at the rim, near the paint and on the perimeter.
It was the bench boys that took advantage, igniting a 15-0 run that bridged the last two minutes of the third quarter and the first three minutes of the fourth, taking a one-point deficit (68-67) and turning into a 14-point lead (82-68).
The Cavs surely have to go on a search for answers before Game 2 on Sunday. Are they demoralized by what took place in Game 1? That’s not likely.
“This is the same team we had down 1-0 last year, and they hit us twice,” Green said. “So it’s no control.
“They’re going to battle, they’re going to compete and they’re super talented. So you can’t come out saying, ‘Oh, we beat them six in a row. We’re good.’ Absolutely not. As soon as you do that and let your guard down, it’s a wrap. We know that. So we’ve got to continue to compete and try to win games.”