OAKLAND (California) • Struggling with turnovers and defensive communication, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending champions, are counting on learning from their mistakes to fight their way back in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals.
Powered by 38 points from Kevin Durant and 28 from Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors dominated the Cavs 113-91 in Thursday's opener of the best-of-seven championship series, aided by 20 Cavaliers turnovers.
"A lot of our actions on the defensive end, a lot of our communication, we're just going to have to dig our feet in and be able to guard the basketball," Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving said. "It's more or less a heart thing, a prideful thing. Going into Game Two we'll be a lot more settled in, a lot better on the defensive end. We'll get better."
The Cavaliers can level the series by winning Game Two on Sunday before the series shifts to Cleveland for two games next week.
And, while the Cavs rallied from1-3 down to win last year's crown in the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, it is not a hole they want to get into again, especially with the Warriors on a 13-0 run to match the NBA's record playoff win streak.
"We made a lot of mistakes," Cavaliers star LeBron James said. "They capitalised. And we get a couple days to see what they did and see what we did wrong and how we can be better in Game Two. We know we're capable of playing a lot better."
Golden State points resulting from LeBron James' eight turnovers.
Durant's defensive work helped frustrate James, who finished with 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting. He also grabbed 15 rebounds and dished eight assists in the first game of his seventh straight Finals.
But he also made eight of 20 Cleveland turnovers that led to 21 Warriors points, seven of them coming in the first half, the second most in any half of his epic career.
"We were victims of ourselves," the forward added. "There's no way you're going to win a game with 20 turnovers against this team and on the road. I pride myself on not turning the ball over and I did it too much."
The Warriors matched an NBA Finals record low with only four turnovers. Golden State had 11 first-half dunks in all, the most of any team in any Finals half in 20 years, Durant (six) leading the way.
The speedy Warriors' fast break proved more than Cleveland could handle.
"When you turn the ball over, that's when they become very dangerous because those guys, they sprint down the lane, they sprint to the three-point line, they put a lot of pressure on your defence," James said.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue dubbed the Warriors "the best I've ever seen", but added: "They're playing good basketball. But we can play better."
Durant dominated early with dunks when the Cavs tried to guard three-point sharpshooters, only to have Curry catch fire in a 13-0 run that opened up the second half and gave the Warriors a double-digit lead for the rest of the game.
"We've got to make it much tougher on him," Lue said of Durant. "Can't give a great scorer like Durant easy baskets.
"We can play better. We will play better. But we got to do a better job putting the ball in the basket."
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said greater effort will be forthcoming in Game Two.
"We kept fighting and fighting, but they never looked back," he said. "We had a ton of turnovers. Some of our lack of communication led to mistakes and led to buckets.
"There were certain points where they were getting hands on balls, deflections, and being first to the 50-50 balls. That's something we can definitely clean up."
But they will have to be wary as Thursday's play was not even the best effort by the Warriors.
"We could be a lot better than we were tonight," Durant said.
Golden State dominated Cleveland in almost every area of the game. The Warriors had 12 steals to none by Cleveland, outscored the Cavaliers 56-30 in the paint and 27-9 on fast breaks.
"I'm sure they feel like they could play better but we feel like we can shoot better," Warriors interim coach Mike Brown, filling in for Steve Kerr while he recovers from complications after back surgery, said after watching Golden State shoot 42.5 per cent from the field.
If they do, the Warriors could become the first team in NBA history to make an unbeaten play-off run to the title.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS