Green: Warriors are not ‘in control’

Marla Ridenour
Akron Beacon Journal

Oakland, Calif. — Draymond Green refused to be baited.

After the Warriors’ 104-89 victory over the Cavaliers Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena, he wouldn’t concede that the defending champions believe they own the team they defeated for the title a year ago.

And the usually unfiltered Green had every reason to brag.

Going into Sunday night’s Game 2 in Oakland, the Warriors have beaten the Cavaliers in six consecutive games, including two in the regular season. The string started after Cleveland took a 2-1 lead in the 2015 Finals only to see Golden State win three in a row to close it out.

“You can’t feel in control at all,” Green said. “This is the same team we had down 1-0 last year and they hit us twice. So it’s no control.”

Green (Michigan State) pointed out that five of those victories came when the Cavaliers were coached by David Blatt. Since Blatt was fired on Jan. 22 and Tyronn Lue was promoted, the Cavaliers have switched to a fast-paced, attacking style with more ball movement.

“Not that I’m blaming anything on David Blatt; I don’t know their situation,” Green said. “But there’s been a lot of changes to their team. They’re not even really playing the same style of basketball they were before.”

The Warriors’ 89-83 victory on Christmas Day could have gone either way, Green said. A 132-98 drubbing inflicted in Quicken Loans Arena on Jan. 18 meant little to Green, though it spelled the end for Blatt.

And on Thursday night the Cavs battled back from a poor first half to take a one-point lead with 2:12 remaining in the third quarter, only to see the Cavs’ undone by 17 turnovers that led to 25 Warriors points and Golden State’s 45-10 edge in bench points.

“They’re used to winning,” Green said of the Cavs. “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.”

LeBron James said the Cavs stuck to their defensive game plan, for the most part. But offensively was another matter.

“We’ve got to be much better moving the ball, moving bodies,” James said. “They’re a great team when you just hold the ball and pound the ball. We’ve got to do a better job with that, which Coach Lue and the coaching staff will make sure we do in Game 2.

“We look forward to the challenge again. Just two days in between doesn’t help. It doesn’t feel good. But it gives our body a chance to get some rest.”

J.R. Smith and Lue found positives despite the Warriors’ 15-0 run at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth to take control. The Cavs got 49 shots in the paint, but hit only 21. They got off 21 3-pointers, making only seven, and hit 38 percent from the field.

“We stayed aggressive no matter what, kept attacking the paint.” Smith said. “Even though we had some missed shots, some missed 3s, 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 3-point line, which is to be expected. We’ve just got to be smarter Game 2.”

Lue said the 28 missed shots in the paint was a good sign.

“We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing,” Lue said. “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. We’ll be better next game.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team may not need a reminder of how the Cavs bounced back from a Game 1 loss in the 2015 Finals, but he’ll bring it up nonetheless.

“It’s probably something we’ll talk about the next couple of days, but I don’t think it will be a problem,” Kerr said. “I think we’re much more experienced. We have that memory in our mind. We’ve been through this now, and we understand you can’t let up ever.

“Sunday is obviously a huge game. We’d like to go take care of business and get out on the road with a 2-0 lead. But we’ve got to play well.”

Slam dunks

The Knicks introduced Jeff Hornacek as their new coach Friday, a few weeks after president Phil Jackson found the leadership and demeanor he wanted in his coach.

“That comfort zone was possible, and I think the basketball knowledge that he has and the familiarity he has playing basketball are things that attracted us together,” Jackson said.

They first spoke on the phone this spring while Hornacek was in a hospital visiting his mother-in-law, who was recovering from knee surgery. They also met in Los Angeles when Hornacek was in town for his daughter’s graduation from Southern California, then flew to New York for another discussion.

Their teams had faced off in the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, with Jackson’s Chicago Bulls beating Hornacek’s Utah Jazz both times.

... Game 1 of the NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland was the most-watched and highest-rated opening game on ABC, with 19.2 million people tuning in for an 11.1 U.S. household rating.

Nielsen said ABC eclipsed the previous viewership high of 17,768,000 by eight percent, a mark set last year between the two teams.

Game 1 was the most-watched NBA game ever on WatchESPN with an average minute audience of 347,000. ESPN drew an 0.6 Hispanic household rating with 124,000 total viewers, making it the most-watched and highest-rated Game 1 ever on the network.

In overnight ratings, the game delivered a 36.0 rating in Cleveland and 32.8 in San Francisco. Ratings represent the percentage of U.S. homes with televisions tuned to a program.

Associated Press contributed