One of the most surprising aspects of Game 1 of the NBA Finals was that Golden State really set the physical tone from the get go. In the first quarter, the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 22-8 in the paint and had a 12-5 in second-chance points. While Cleveland eventually won the game’s rebounding battle, Golden State established early that it was going to punch the Cavs in the mouth.
To Tristan Thompson, this is not ok. Thompson is Cleveland’s interior presence and someone who takes pride in his defense, rebounding, and ability to do the little things that don’t show up in the box score. But during Game 1, he was essentially a non-factor – Thompson registered no points on 0-for-3 shooting with four rebounds in 22 minutes during the Cavaliers’ 113-91 loss.
Thompson is now looking forward to Game 2 and is determined to make sure Cleveland is more physical than Golden State, especially in the paint. In fact, his mindset heading into Sunday night’s matchup is that he needs to do everything he can to up the physicality down low.
Cleveland isn’t necessarily in a bad spot if it loses Game 2, but it needs to get at least one game off of the Warriors in Oakland if it wants to win a ring. Beating Golden State requires a team to play a near-perfect game. Winning at Oracle sometimes requires a better than perfect game with the Warriors having a rare off night.
One way for Cleveland to make that second thing happen would be for them to punch the Dubs in the mouth and get them off their game early. If Thompson has his way, that’s exactly what’s going to happen on Sunday night. Whether or not that strategy works remains to be seen, but it’s worth a shot.