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International watch, NBA Finals 2016: Brazilian Blur helps Golden State take Game 1

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors and Brazil veteran Leandro Barbosa led the international stars in this year’s NBA Finals, Game 1 as they toppled the Cleveland Cavaliers 104-89 in Oakland.

The Brazilian Blur hit all five of his field goal attempts, including a three-pointer for 11 points with team-mate and Australian international Andrew Bogut adding 10 points, the same tally that he got in the entire 2015 NBA Finals.

Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova (Australia) and Timofey Mozgov (Russia) played limited roles in defeat. Kyrie Irving, who claimed MVP honours at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, led all scorers for the Cavs with 26.

The Warriors found an unlikely hero in Shaun Livingston, who boasted a team-high 20 points.

Quietly getting the job done early, Bogut had an efficient first twelve minutes, hitting three of his first four shots inside for the Warriors, who were otherwise struggling, offensively.

Defence though was the main factor in Golden State’s overall first quarter advantage as Cleveland, apart from LeBron James, struggled to settle into any sort of offensive rhythm due to the Warriors’ speed in getting out to the Cavaliers’ shooters and patience inside as they crowded the lane, making it hard for Cleveland’s big men, forcing them to go outside the key, which ultimately forced two shot clock violations for the visitors.

With their defence sorted, Golden State just needed to improve their nervy offence. Enter Barbosa.

The 33-year-old Sao Paulo native came in early into the second quarter and his first effort was an awkward turnaround jumper, which he followed up with a scintillating move, putting Australian Matthew Dellavedova in a spin cycle then finishing nicely off the backboard.

Not to be outdone, Dellavedova hit back in the next offence but Cleveland overall struggled in the first half. Barbosa hit a corner three-pointer, four minutes into the second and with the Warriors role players stealing the spotlight from the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson; they had a 52-43 cushion at the half.

Cleveland fought back in the third, inspired by Irving as they took their first lead of the game since the opening moments of the first, only for the Warriors to wrestle that lead back and they took a 74-68 advantage heading into what many thought would be a tightly-contested final period.

But the contest instead turned one-sided. Curry and Thompson, who both struggled all night, on the scoring side, helped the Warriors function, offensively as the role players picked up the flack, and the Golden State lead reached twenty points at 96-76.

The Cavaliers went on a run to close the gap to keep the crowd in Oakland on the edge of their seats and then Curry and Thompson finally responded with back-to-back three-pointers to take game one.

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