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Irving puts Game 1 in the books, eager to see a Game 2

Cleveland's point guard scores 26 and finishes with his health (unlike 2015) in disappointing loss in Finals opener

POSTED: Jun 3, 2016 7:14 AM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner


GameTime: Irving Reacts to Game 1 Loss

Kyrie Irving reacts to the Game 1 loss to the Warriors.

— Had Kyrie Irving dreamed about the opportunity he would have Thursday night, his nocturnal aspirations might have looked very much like what he experienced.

A big game individually. Healthy and active, with the ball in his hands all night. Productive enough not merely to lead his Cleveland team in scoring but to singlehandedly outscore the All-Star backcourt pushing against him and the Cavaliers.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson uncharacteristically needed help, managing just 20 points -- nine fewer than they had totaled in any game all season. Irving scored 26.

The dream at that point pretty much fizzled, with Cleveland losing for the sixth consecutive time dating back to last June (last three games of The Finals, two regular-season meetings and now the 2016 opener). Golden State's bench picked up its out-of-synch guard tandem with 45 points -- the Cavs' backups had 10 -- and a 16-point, 11-rebound, seven-assist performance by Draymond Green. The rest came courtesy of defense, which limited Cleveland to 38 percent shooting and got 17 turnovers that got turned into 25 points in Golden State's 104-89 Game 1 victory.

In terms of being back here for Game 1, a lot of emotions. But now that Game 1's over, just attack Game 2.

– Cleveland's Kyrie Irving

For Irving, the game that unspooled wasn't quite the stuff of nightmares he had endured in Game 1 a year ago, when his left kneecap fractured in a convulsive stop and collision with Thompson. That injury sent him out of Oracle Arena on crutches, Irving and his father and his agent exiting amid tears and fears and curses. It not only ended his postseason, the subsequent surgery dominated his offseason and squatted on the first two months of 2015-16 as well, his return delayed until nearly Christmas.

But this one, in the building with such rotten mojo for him, was bad enough. Irving had three of those turnovers and just four assists. He missed 15 of his 22 shots, desperation as the Warriors' lead bulged enticing Irving to try even tough looks (one caromed off the side of the backboard).

Cleveland Reacts to Game 1 Loss

Tyronn Lue, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James address the media following a game 1 loss to Golden State.

LeBron James scored 23 the hard way too, shooting 9-of-21, and like his point guard, James was a minus-9 in Game 1. Kevin Love finished with 17, leaving the Big Three short of that magical 20-20-20 mark that generally translates into victories; it would have left them far short Thursday.

"We missed 28 shots in the paint," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said, parsing his team's 52 misses. "To get to the basket missing 28 shots in the paint, that's not us."

Irving, James and Love combined for 19 points in the third quarter to get the Cavaliers all the way back from an 11-point hole early in the second. They peeked their heads above even at 66-65 -- then went into free fall, getting outscored 21-4 until it didn't matter anymore.

Cleveland took some solace -- and some credit -- for Curry's and Thompson's off nights, and trusts that it might, maybe, perhaps be able to hold both of them down again. If only they can stifle the others.

GameTime: Kevin Love Speaks

Cleveland's Kevin Love speaks with reporters after the Warriors take game 1 of The Finals.

"They came in, pushed the pace and made a lot of, some tough shots, some easy shots, pushing in transition and got their crowd into it," Irving said. "So we've just got to limit those guys coming in and have an aggressive mindset with our second unit. Whoever's out there, just playing our game."

By the end, Irving's 26 points were inconsequential and the only time any of the principals talked about him afterward was when someone wondered if Green had nearly kicked the Cavs guard in the head. Otherwise, Irving might as well have been folding clothes -- which is how a lot of his teammates must feel when he's dribbling, dribbling, dribbling, showing off his iso skills to no particular end.

Cavaliers vs. Warriors Game 2 Preview

The GameTime crew preview Game 2 between the Cavaliers vs. Warriors.

The lone bright spot is that, unlike a year ago, there will be a Game 2 in The Finals for Irving. He can try to help his teammates alter the outcome, rather than sit helplessly by while James takes on all burdens himself.

"We've just got to recollect ourselves," Irving said. "In terms of being back here for Game 1, a lot of emotions. But now that Game 1's over, just attack Game 2.

"We've just got to keep playing and remain calm."

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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