OAKLAND — Two days after Game 1, after Rihanna was as much the star of the first game of the NBA Finals as Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, the singer was still a topic of conversation around the Warriors.
Whether it was Jeff Van Gundy’s remarks about the Barbadian beauty, Durant allegedly looking her way after nailing a shot on the wing, or her profane exit from Oracle Arena Thursday, Rihanna’s presence was a present and members of the media still wanted to hear the Warriors talk about her sideline antics and any effects they might have had.
Durant apparently managed to avoid more questions about her, but it was a different story for Curry, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala. All were pressed for different takes on Rihanna and all of them had different answers.
Curry at least had some fun when asked whether a star sitting courtside—Jay Z and Kevin Hart were also in attendance at Game 1—can actually impact the players.
“At times, yeah. There's a lot of noteworthy people that show up, especially this time of year to the Finals games and whatnot,” said the two-time NBA MVP. “If you have a personal relationship or history with certain people—I saw Kevin Hart on the sidelines. He's over there cracking jokes the whole game. Stuff like that, you can have fun with at times.”
Green, when asked whether Rihanna was now off-limits on the locker room speakers, said the Grammy winner’s songs “have never really been on the playlist.”
And you could practically see the disdain on the face of Iguodala, the most seasoned vet on the Warriors other than David West, when he was asked about any effect she might have had on the game.
“I really just focus on the floor, anything outside of that I don’t pain no mind to,” said the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.
The mesmerizing powers of Rihanna aside, what really matters, of course, is how the Cavs respond to getting spanked in Game 1 and how the Warriors counteract. The blowout was Cleveland’s own doing, playing poor defense against Durant and turning the ball over a staggering 20 times. But the Warriors know the Cavs won’t repeat their disappointing performance and expect them to come out firing on all cylinders, hell bent on evening the series before the stage switches to Cleveland for Game 3.
“You expect them to play physical, have a lot of energy, feed off LeBron and Kyrie,” Curry said. “I'm assuming they're going to try to get some other guys involved, especially trying to get their 3-ball-game going. We have to be ready for that and to stop that, for sure.”
The Cavs bench was AWOL in Game 1 and while plenty of credit should go to the Warriors for the easy 21-point victory, the Cavs did a superb job of beating themselves by allowing Durant to seemingly dunk at will and give the Warriors 21 points off of turnovers. Some would suggest the Cavs try to slow down the pace in Game 2, a theory given credence based on how Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals played out. The Cavaliers arguably have better isolation players than the Warriors, but dictating the pace against Golden State is easier said and done. Plus, as Richard Jefferson pointed out, that’s not who the Cavs are anyway.
“We have the best downhill guy probably in the NBA,” Jefferson said about LeBron. “You combine that with Kryie and his ability to finish in transition. When we get out in transition it allows guys like J.R. and Kyle Korver to get open shots. So we don’t want to slow the pace.”
Almost assuredly we can rule out the Cavs turning it over so many times again. But can they win win the 50-50 loose balls and prevent Golden State from multiple shots on one possession? That will be key.
“More or less we have to get stops in the half court and understand that the play doesn't just stop when the shot goes up with these guys,” Irving said. “They're tipping out basketballs and they're getting it back to their shooters and relocating on the 3-point line. So if we limit them to one shot per possession, we can control the pace a lot better and honestly still play at a high tempo.”
They’re also going to need to guard that guy Durant. And hope visions of Rihanna are still dancing in his head.