The Golden State Warriors know they must contend with a “monster” on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ frontline.
In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors threw everyone they could to stop it. That monster was not superstar LeBron James or even All-Star Kevin Love.
The Warriors needed to stop Tristan Thompson.
The result was Cleveland’s center playing only 22 minutes and producing a barren stat line as the Warriors coasted to a 113-91 victory on Thursday in Oakland.
Thompson is no All-Star, but he has tormented the Warriors in the previous two Finals with his rebounding and activity around the rim.
In Game 1, Thompson went scoreless for the first time in these playoffs and was limited to four rebounds. He logged his fewest minutes, and the Cavs suffered their most lopsided loss, of this postseason.
Thompson is averaging 8.9 rebounds in the playoffs.
“Tristan Thompson’s a load,” said Warriors interim coach Mike Brown. “He’s been destroying almost everyone he’s come across in the playoffs on the offensive glass, and (center) Zaza Pachulia didn’t play a ton of minutes, but the minutes he played, especially at the beginning of the game, kind of set the tone for us on the offensive glass.”
As the Warriors pulled away, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue benched Thompson in favor of more offensive players to try close the gap.
The Warriors took pride in making Thompson a nonfactor. He is the highest-paid center on either team, but was the third-best center on the floor at Oracle Arena.
Pachulia had six rebounds in 14 minutes. Warriors backup center JaVale McGee had five rebounds in six minutes. Thompson said the Warriors’ offensive rebounding that led to second-chance points was “deflating.”
“We kept Tristan off the boards to the best of our abilities,” McGee told reporters after Game 1. “You can’t be worried about getting the rebound yourself. That’s where most people go wrong with him. We just tried to box him out so he wasn’t able to give them a spark.”
Love had a game-high 21 rebounds and James had 15, helping Cleveland to a 59-50 advantage on the boards (15-14 offensive). But Thompson needs to be more forceful to prevent the Warriors from taking him out of the game.
“With Tristan, he’s a monster on the boards,” Lue said. “So they’re putting two or three guys on him to block him out so he can’t rebound the basketball. And that’s what gave Kevin a chance to get five offensive rebounds. So they’re doing a good job of trying to keep him off the glass, and we got to find other ways to get offensive rebounds like we did tonight.”
Thompson did not have a lot to say about Golden State’s concerted effort to neutralize him.
“I guess they did a good job,” Thompson said. “(I’ll) be a little more active and I can be better on Sunday.”