Cavaliers see reasons for optimism in Game 1 loss

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OAKLAND — Here is the conventional wisdom after Game 1 of the NBA Finals: “If the Cavaliers can’t win on a night Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are both off, when can they win?”

The Cavaliers don’t see it that way.

They saw a game where they did some good things — like keeping the Splash Brothers in check, attacking the rim, and getting some offensive rebounds. The things that got them a brief lead in the third quarter. They believe just need to finish better in the paint and take better care of the ball. Oh, and slow that Warriors bench a little.

“We missed 28 shots in the paint,” Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue. “We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing. I thought we were fine. I feel good about how we played. The outcome wasn’t great for us, the score, but to get to the basket missing 28 shots in the paint, that’s not us. So we’ll be better next game.”

“But don’t matter what you do with Steph and Klay, don’t matter what you do with Draymond. Give up 45 points off the bench and 25 points off turnovers on the road, it’s not a good ingredient to win,” LeBron James said.

While the Warriors shot better than 50 percent for much of the game (they finished at 49.4 percent) and carved the Cavaliers up at times with back cuts and dives to the basket, Cleveland seemed fairly happy with their defense. They saw the other end as the big issue.

“I think defensively we had a game plan and we followed it as much as possible,”  LeBron said. “Well, as great as we could for 48 minutes. We had some breakdowns, which we know we can get better with. Offensively, we’ve got to be much better. We’ve got to be much better moving the ball, moving bodies.”

The Warriors switching — particularly with the “death lineup” and other smaller rotations — threw the Cavaliers off their game plan. They saw that and slowed down trying to find mismatches, and in doing so settled for too many isolation plays. Which were defendable.

That and some transition defense lapses — plus just making their shots — are things the Cavaliers see as correctable.

We stayed aggressive no matter what, kept attacking the paint,” J.R. Smith said. “Even though we had some missed shots, some missed threes, we didn’t let that discourage us. We did a pretty good job in transition. We’ve got to do a better job at finding the bigs and guys at the basket. I think we overcompensated for those guys at the three-point line, which is to be expected. We just got to be smarter Game 2.”

It sounds good on paper.

Executing it against a Warriors team that is likely to have their stars hitting more shots — and cleaning up some execution flaws of their own — is going to be the real test.