LeBron James was asked what stood out to him most about the Golden State Warriors after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ lopsided loss Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA finals.

His answer consisted all of two syllables.


“I mean, you take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year, that we saw in the regular season and the postseason, and then in the offseason you add a high-powered offensive talent like that and a great basketball IQ like that, that’s what stands out,” James said.

James was of course talking about Kevin Durant, who erupted for 38 points in the Warriors’ 113-91 victory.

Durant, a former MVP who is new this season to a Cavs-Warriors finals rivalry that’s in its third installment, shot 14 of 26 from the field, and contributed eight rebounds and eight assists. He became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to score at least 38 points without committing a turnover.

Durant made precisely the difference Cleveland feared he might – not only performing at an elite level himself but making it difficult for the Cavs to throw multiple players at Stephen Curry, who contributed 28 points and 10 assists.

“I mean, it’s no if, ands or buts,” James said. “It is what it is. We got to figure out how to combat that, which is going to be a tough challenge for us. But that’s what stands out.”

James was serious. His coach, Tyronn Lue, seemed to speak with just a hint of sarcasm when he said the Warriors are “the best I ever seen.”

“I mean, no other team has done this, right?” Lue said.

For context, the Warriors are a perfect 13-0 – never been done before in the NBA playoffs – are blowing out teams more so than any in playoff history on a nightly basis. Last season they set an NBA record with 73 regular-season wins and were up 3-1 in the finals on the Cavs before James led them back for the organization’s first championship.

And then Golden State added Durant as a free agent July 4.

“So, 13-0 and they constantly break records every year,” Lue said. “Last year being 73-9, this year starting the playoffs 13-0. So they’re playing good basketball. But we can play better.”

The Cavs committed 20 turnovers for 21 points. The Warriors tied an NBA finals record low with four turnovers.

Lue also said the Cavs got “backwards” the game plan on defense, and were running out to the Warriors’ shooters even when Durant had the ball and was heading toward the basket. He registered seven uncontested dunks in the first half.

“When Kevin Durant has the ball, you don’t want to leave him and get to shooters,” Lue said.

James finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. He shot 9 of 20 and committed a game-high eight turnovers.

James and the Miami Heat beat Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in the 2012 finals, and after Game 1, James is still 18-6 lifetime against Durant.

“It’s not about me,” Durant said. “He’s going to do what he does. He’s LeBron James. He can, you know – you guys know what he can do. So I just tried to play as hard as I can and not make it about a matchup. It’s about us, it’s about the Golden State Warriors versus the Cleveland Cavaliers and we’re only going to do it together. That’s just our whole mindset.

“So I just tried to do my part, stay locked in on both ends and have some fun out there. But they’re tough to stop, but I think we did it as a group tonight.”

Draymond Green didn’t even score until late in the third quarter (he finished with nine points and 11 rebounds). Durant was doing enough scoring for the both of them, with 23 points in the first half alone.

Durant simply adds a dimension that wasn’t there on the Warriors in the previous two finals against Cleveland – as any MVP-caliber player, joining another MVP (Currry) and two other All-Stars in the prime of their careers might.

“He can just go get a bucket,” Green said. “And that’s one of the things that we need, a guy who can go get a bucket, get to the foul line. Tonight he shot eight free throws, which is huge. They were going on a run and he picks up a foul and gets to the line. That’s huge for us. You are talking one of the best players in the game. To have a game like that when he’s playing that way, it’s tough to beat. 38, 8, 8, zero turnovers? I mean that’s, we’re real tough to beat when he’s doing that.

“We’re going to seek him out, get him the ball, and guys have got to defend him. He was amazing tonight, and I expect nothing less in the rest of the games.”