OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors didn’t win 73 regular season games by solely relying on their all stars.
So when Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 8-for-27 on Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA finals, the Dubs coasted on the backs of their reserves to a 104-89 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Shaun Livingston, the 6-foot-7 point guard who once tore his knee so badly many wondered if he would ever walk again —let alone play — led the way with 20 points. In his best ever postseason performance, Livingston connected on eight of the 10 shots he attempted over 26 minutes.
“Shaun’s a guy who has battled through much more than having to step up in a game,” said Draymond Green, who stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. “He’s been from the top to the bottom and back. And when you go through so much in life and his career, I mean, it makes stepping up in the game easy.”
Livingston’s performance was all the more impressive considering he scored just 27 total points in the Western Conference Finals.
Yet there he was, putting on a clinic of how a guard can effectively score in the midrange — jump hooks, pull-up jumpers and putbacks.
“He’s always going to be bigger at the point guard position,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue explained. “… He got to the spots, to the free-throw line, 12 feet in on the baseline and got to his shot, and he hurt us with that tonight.”
Livingston wasn’t the only reserve to give the Dubs a huge lift. Andre Iguodala contributed 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists over 36 minutes.
Leandro Barbosa, who made just six baskets against Oklahoma City, was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor in 12 minutes.
“It’s kind of a time-honored NBA tradition: Role players play better at home than they do on the road,” Kerr said before the game.
And his team delivered as the W’s bench mob outscored their Cavalier counterparts 45-10, the biggest margin in the Finals in the last 50 years, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“What happened? They scored 45 points, we scored 10,” James said. “That’s what happened.”
After the Cavs and Warriors traded leads in the third quarter, any doubt about the end result was vanquished in a stretch at the end of the period. The Golden State reserves provided a spark after the Warriors starters staggered coming out of halftime. Minutes after Kerr karate-chopped a clipboard to pieces in frustration, his non-starters blitzed Cleveland with a 15-0 run that included 13 points from Livingston, Iguodala and Barbosa.
The Warriors insist they won’t be complacent, taking heed the lessons of yesteryear when they lost Game 2 to the Cavs after dominating Game 1.
“We have that memory in our mind,” Kerr said. “We’ve been through this now, and we understand you can’t let up ever. Sunday is obviously a huge game.”