OAKLAND, Calif. -- Losing the first game of any series requires the team trailing 1-0 to take a half-full approach. That might be a difficult proposition for the Cavaliers, who watched the Warriors dismantle them by 22 points in Game 1 on Thursday, even as they missed a series of easy shots at the rim, and watched as Draymond Green and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 6-for-28 from the field. Kevin Durant (38 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) and Stephen Curry (28 points, 10 assists, six threes) were dominant, and that was enough for Golden State to get a head start in these Finals.
But the Cavs have plenty of room to improve from their Game 1 performance, which should at least give them some encouragement that they can close the gap on the Warriors and leave Golden State with a split on Sunday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC). To do so though, they'll have to consider the following.
1. Stop turning the ball over
Cleveland's sloppy play and resulting turnover numbers in Game 1 was troubling. "We were victims of ourselves," LeBron James said after Game 1. "We had 20 turnovers, and there's no way you're going to win a ball game having 20 turnovers against this team on the road. But at the end of the day, we gave up a lot in transition. They had 27 points on fast breaks."
The last point is crucial, and the effect of turning the ball over is that it allows the Warriors -- who already have the best offense in the league and one of the most efficient offenses in league history -- to get easy baskets in transition. Durant himself had six dunks in the first half of Game 1, and while Cleveland seemed intent on limiting Golden State's attack from beyond the arc (the Warriors finished 12-for-33 from three in Game 1), they overcompensated and allowed Durant to just parade to the rim at will.
Add to the fact that the Warriors had just four turnovers as a team in Game 1 -- tying them for the lowest total in an NBA Finals game in league history -- and the Cavs have to take care of the ball better, which brings us to …
2. Make LeBron more efficient
LeBron had a subpar game by his standards in Game 1, even though he shot 9-for-20 from the field and scored 28 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and dishing out eight assists. The eight turnovers were a team-high, and led to many fast breaks on the other end. LeBron also missed four free throws. Against another team, the Cavs would be able to get by like that. Against these Warriors? The margin for error doesn't exist.
LeBron is the best in the league at dictating the pace of the game, and finding spots where he is the primary scorer and when he is a facilitator. In Game 1, the Cavs generated a lot of their offense by having LeBron and Kyrie Irving go one-on-one against Warriors defenders. There are those who believe the Cavs would benefit from LeBron moving the ball around more and finding open teammates. But the flow of Cleveland's offense often derives from the attention that LeBron and Kyrie Irving get from one-on-one matchups.
"That's part of our game. It's what got us here," LeBron said after Game 1. "So we definitely want to be more in the 20s in assists, but that's what got us here. And we got to be able to make shots."
The Cavs aren't going to change their entire offensive approach in the middle of the Finals. But they will need LeBron to take care of the ball much better if they want to keep up with Golden State on offense.
3. Find help
We know what LeBron brings to the table. Irving scored 24 points in Game 1. Kevin Love, who was nearly unplayable for most of last year's Finals, scored 15 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in Thursday's loss. But other than that, the Cavs got nothing else from their supporting cast.
Kyle Korver, who had some big moments in Cleveland's romp through the East, did not make a field goal in 19 minutes in Game 1. Tristan Thompson, who was a huge presence defensively and on the glass in last year's Finals, didn't score and grabbed just four rebounds in 22 minutes in Game 1. The rest of the Cavs' supporting cast was equally quiet.
When Cleveland is at their best, it's a steady diet of LeBron, Irving and Love showing off their individual brilliance, sprinkled with a supporting player or two stepping up on offense with their three-point shooting. Cleveland got nothing from any of their secondary scoring options in Game 1. If that remains the same for Game 2, it will be a short series for the Cavs, who need all of their weapons to be clicking to hang against this Warriors' offense.
4. Control the pace
Figuring out how to stop the Warriors on offense is a complicated question, but Cleveland might have to just try to use simple math in this series. One number that stands out from Game 1 was the field goal attempts. The Warriors took 106 shots versus 86 for the Cavs. Toss in the turnovers leading to transition baskets for the Warriors and giving Golden State 20 more shot attempts in any game means you're not going to win.
Slow the pace down. The Cavs aren't going to win running up and down the floor with the Warriors, so they might as well figure out if they can do it in a more traditional halfcourt game, where LeBron and Irving could use their individual brilliance -- similar to last year's Game 5 win in Golden State, when both players had 41 points -- to propel the Cavs, and at the same time limit the shot attempts and transition opportunities for Golden State.
Again, easier said than done, and it's not as if keeping the Warriors from a set number of possessions means they'll not find ways to put up 100-plus points anyways, but the Cavs might find their path to a victory much easier if they slow the pace of the game down in Game 2.
5. Try to stop KD (if you can)
Like any other series, these Finals are about one team adjusting to another from game-to-game. There is quite a bit of familiarity between the two teams given that they're meeting for the third consecutive Finals, but as we saw in Game 1, adding Durant to the equation might pose too big of a problem for the Cavs to overcome.
The trickle-down effect of Durant's addition was apparent in Game 1, and could end up being the deciding factor in this series, which should be no surprise considering the Warriors added Durant to this team for exactly this reason. For one, the Cavs have no choice but to ask LeBron to draw a difficult defensive assignment, since he is the only person capable of even keeping up with Durant in one-on-one situations.
The problem with having LeBron on Durant is two-fold. First, this will exert quite a toll on LeBron, who will be playing close to 48 minutes in this series. Second, Durant can exploit a multitude of mismatches once another defender is switched onto him in any pick-and-roll situation. There's simply no one else on the Cavs who can pose a challenge to him.
The Cavs might consider double-teaming Durant, and deciding to just let Thompson or Green beat them from the perimeter. Thompson won't be in a shooting slump forever, and Green has been shooting well throughout the postseason. The Cavs have to pick their poison, and we'll see in Game 2 how they decide to switch up their approach with Durant.