Entering the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors were 12-0 in the playoffs with an average margin of victory of 16.3 points. The Cleveland Cavaliers, meanwhile, were 12-1 and had defeated Toronto and Boston by an average margin of 15.3 points and 25.8 points, respectively.
What does that mean? It means we’ve had a lot of blowouts in the playoffs, and Game 1 of the NBA Finals was no different. The Cavs trailed the Warriors by just eight at halftime on Thursday but were outscored 53-39 in the second half and lost, 113-91.
Why have there been so many blowouts this postseason?
“Well, I think a lot of people look at the Cavaliers and the Warriors being so dominant as the thing that undermines all of this,” Bleacher Report senior NBA writer Ric Bucher said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Look, I’m a basketball guy, so the Wizards/Hawks series was intriguing to me. I thought that Milwaukee and getting to see Giannis Antetokounmpo show his stuff for the first time (was intriguing). Bits and pieces here and there (were good), but all of it (was) sort of a lead-up (to the Finals). We looked at these two teams (the Cavs and Warriors) and how they were playing and we were judging them all along against other opponents, and I think they were measuring each other, too.
“The real issue,” Bucher continued, “is the fact that the three-point shot has become so incredibly prevalent and we have so many great three-point shooters that when one team starts to knock them down, the other team has a tendency to try to match it – and if they’re not shooting well, that snowballs. Teams don’t have this kind of in-between game or this ability to chip away quickly. It’s like, ‘Well, we’re going to fight fire with fire. We’re going to shoot threes.'”
The Cavs (31) and Warriors (33) combined for 64 three-point attempts in Game 1, hitting 11 and 12, respectively. But sometimes, it’s not how many threes you hit; it’s when you hit them. With their deficit mounting in Game 1, the Cavs tried – and failed – to three-point their way back into the game.
“You’re down 12 and you’re looking to get back in the game and you’re thinking, ‘We just need to hit a couple games and this is a six-point game again,’” Bucher said hypothetically. “The problem is you then miss one or two threes, (which leads) to long rebounds and now they’re going the other way and what was a 12-point game is a 16-, 18-, 19-point game, and it suddenly gets out of hand. I don’t know what the solution is there, but to me, that’s why we’ve had all these lopsided games in the postseason. Not just the Cavs and the Warriors. I really don’t think that alone is what it’s been. We had a lot of lopsided, non-competitive playoff games, and that’s not what we usually see. I think it’s because this has become a three-point shooting league, and it’s going to be feast-or-famine in a lot of games.”
We’ll see if Game 2 is closer. Tip-off is Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.