OAKLAND -- After Game 1 of the NBA Finals, a 113-91 rout by the Warriors for their 13th straight playoff victory, there was a question bubbling around.
Where was Tristan Thompson?
The answer is that Thompson was wherever the Warriors wanted him to be, and nowhere they didn't want him to be.
Thompson's a crucial player in this series --. He has to protect the rim and be aggressive on the offensive end. None of those things happened in Game 1. Thompson wasn't the only problem, or even the biggest one (turnovers and defense) for the Cavaliers, but he didn't help. And some of it was that he wasn't engaged, and some of it was that the Warriors disengaged him. A few screenshots:
Durant dunks when LeBron's (bad) closeout causes him to slip. Thompson can't get over to recover. Part of that is that Thompson didn't rotate at full speed. Part of it is that McGee is high here. He's going to be doing nothing offensively but Thompson has to stay tethered in case he needs to switch onto Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson.
The Cavaliers put Thompson on Draymond Green for much of the game, even when the Warriors had a center on the floor. And Green spaced him out.
Some of it was just effort. Thompson simply didn't battle, and he had zero defensive rebounds in the first half. That cannot happen, even if Kevin Love wound up grabbing 21 rebounds, 16 defensive. Love was present, and active, and played well. Thompson ...
The Cavs have all said they expect him to be better.
"With Tristan, he's a monster on the boards," Cavs coach Tyronn 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."
While that's true, Thompson also had few chances to actually grab those offensive rebounds, because he was often screening high with the Warriors allowing mid-range jumpers and Thompson was too far away to crash.
Thompson also just didn't have great energy. The Cavaliers were caught off guard the whole game by the Warriors' speed, with nearly every Cavalier saying you can't "simulate" their speed in practice. But Thompson is going to have to be a lot better, and the Cavaliers have to make adjustments to put him in a position to make plays if they're going to have more success in Game 2. They can't afford a no-show from Thompson.
Golden State flipped nearly every advantage their way in Game 1, but if the Warriors win the second-chance battle, it's going to be a very quick series.
Not everything was Thompson's fault, but for a player whose hustle has helped the Cavs win so many Finals games, his absence felt notable. The Cavaliers have to find Thompson in Game 2, as much as Thompson has to find himself.