OAKLAND, United States (AFP) – Defending champion Golden State, showing the teamwork and depth that helped produce a record 73 regular-season wins, routed the Cleveland Cavaliers 104-89 in Thursday’s opening game of the NBA Finals.
Game two in the best-of-seven series will be played Sunday at Oakland before the scene shifts to Cleveland for two games.
Warriors reserve guard Shaun Livingston scored a season-best 20 points, his career playoff high, while Draymond Green added 16 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals to lead seven double-figure scorers.
Golden State’s defensive play was just as deep and dominating, holding Cleveland to just 38.1 percent shooting from the floor, the Cavaliers hitting only 32-of-84 shots.
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 26 points but hit only 7-of-22 from the floor while LeBron James added 23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists but made only 9-of-21. Kevin Love had 17 points and 13 rebounds but went 7-of-17 shooting and Tristan Thompson added 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting plus 12 rebounds.
Cleveland’s reserves managed only 10 points while the Warriors’ bench had 45, paced by Livingston.
“We knew we had to be aggressive,’’ said Livingston. ‘We knew we had to play tough defense and make some shots.’’
For all the talk of two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry and Cleveland’s four-time NBA MVP James stealing the show, the Warriors reserves produced their share of the points when it mattered most.
Curry, the NBA scoring champion this season, scored only 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting while Klay Thompson, who usually joins Curry as a 3-point sharpshooter, managed only nine points on 4-of-12 shooting.
The Warriors went on decisive 15-0 run that began late in the third quarter and was sparked by the Golden State bench. It also came largely with James resting on the bench.
James passed Larry Bird for 10th on the all-time playoff rebounds list, making him the only player in NBA playoff history to rank in the top 10 in points, rebounds and assists.
Irving made a jumper and a 3-point play and Tristan Thompson scored off a rebound to pull Cleveland within 56-52 early in the third quarter.
During a subsequent timeout, Warriors coach Steve Kerr shattered a clipboard with an angry punch.
Love lifted the Cavaliers to their first lead since the opening minutes at 64-63 with 3:57 to play in the third quarter on a 3-point play followed by a layup, and they still lead 68-67 when the Warriors struck, scoring the next 15 points.
Golden State’s Andre Iguodala was struck in the groin by Matthew Dellavedova late in the third quarter as the Australian tried to reach around for a steal. Iguodala grimaced and then stared down Dellavedova but cooler heads prevented an altercation.
Seconds later, Iguodala made a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 74-68 after three quarters and Golden State scored the first eight points of the final period, all with James resting on the Cleveland bench.
Reserves scored all but two points for Golden State in the crucial run.
The Warriors stretched the lead as big as 96-76 before Cleveland rallied to trim the final margin.
Golden State kept Cleveland to only 35.7 percent shooting in the first half on the way to a 52-43 half-time lead.
The Cavaliers had 13 points from Irving, 11 from James and 10 by Love, but Irving was 3-of-12 from the floor and James 4-of-9 as Cleveland opened 10-of-20 from the court but then went 6-for-26.