The Cleveland Cavaliers' bench must improve heading into Game 2 of the NBA Finals

In Game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers' bench was unable to match Golden State's. It was one of the main reasons why Cleveland lost Thursday night. They can and must do better.

Golden State Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for their lowest scoring output of the season in Game 1 of the Finals. With those two combining for just 20 points, the Cleveland Cavaliers had to have come away with a victory, right? Unfortunately that wasn't the case Thursday night. In fact, the Warriors played better when the Splash Brothers were watching from the sidelines while Shaun Livingston poured in 20, Andre Iguodala scored 12, and Leandro Barbosa added 11.

To keep it short and sweet, the Cleveland Cavaliers' bench was miserable in the first game of the Finals. Not only were they outscored 45-10, but they allowed the Warriors' bench to do whatever they wanted on offense, while not having much offense themselves. Here's a look at the Cavs' bench from Game 1.

  • Iman Shumpert: 1-for-1, three points, one rebound, minus-15 in 17 minutes
  • Richard Jefferson: 1-for-3, three points, two rebounds, minus-10 in 12 minutes
  • Matthew Dellavedova: 1-for-3, two points, one assist, minus-19 in 11 minutes
  • Channing Frye: 0-for-1, two points, one rebound, plus-4 in seven minutes

Obviously, one of the biggest questions many will have is why did the Cavs' hottest shooter in the 2016 playoffs so far, Channing Frye, only play seven minutes, with two of those minutes coming in garbage time. While that is a question only head coach Tyronn Lue can answer, those minutes will likely increase in the second game of the series and beyond, especially if the rest of the players off the bench continue to struggle. Frye not only opens the floor on offense with his ability to shoot from the outside, but he does well on the defensive side of the ball as well.

While Cleveland's bench had its fair share of struggles, the Warriors' bench used their time to their advantage. They not only dominated, but the difference between the benches was one of the main reasons why the Warriors beat the Cavs in Game 1. In fact, Golden State's leading scorer Thursday night, Shaun Livingston, came off the bench.

  • Andre Iguodala:  5-for-9, 12 points, seven rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block, plus-22 in 36 minutes
  • Shaun Livingston: 8-for-10, 20 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, plus-20 in 27 minutes
  • Leandro Barbosa: 5-for-5, 11 points, one rebound plus-14 in 11 minutes
  • Festus Ezeli: 1-for-4, two points, three rebounds, one steal, plus-3 in 10 minutes

Obviously most of the focus in the post-game presser for Ty Lue was Shaun Livingston.

"Livingston came in and had a great game," Lue said. "Their bench played well. So we've got to go back to the drawing board and try to figure out how to take those guys out of the game."

Beyond having a great game, Lue was asked why he thought Shaun Livingston was so effective in Game 1.

"Just his length, being 6'7" and no matter who you try to put in front of him, he's always going to be bigger at the point guard position. So we try to keep a bigger defender on him. But 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. So we've got to continue to keep length on him and try to make it harder and be more physical with him."

Unlike in the first three rounds of the playoffs, when Cavs star LeBron James and the rest of the starters needed a break, the bench wasn't able to keep the energy and continue the scoring that the starters had throughout each game, which did not happen in Game 1 Thursday night. Lue had no trouble identifying the likely cause and effect.

"We took LeBron out towards the end of that third quarter, and a couple minutes in the fourth quarter, and the game kind of got away from us."

The positive news is that the bench will (probably) never play as badly as they did in Game 1. For the Cavaliers to win, they'll need the bench group to not only bring plenty more scoring to Game 2 and beyond, but also continue the energy that the LeBron James and the starters bring.

The good news is that until it persists, the Cavaliers can say it was just one game. With one game in the books, the Cavaliers still have plenty of time to make adjustments and improve heading into Game 2 and the rest of the series.

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