For the fourth straight year, in what seems like a never-ending TV episode, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have met up in the NBA Finals. LeBron James scored 51 points in a performance for the history books, but the Warriors wound up winning in OT. Here are three takeaways from the first game of the series.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a blowout?
Many people thought, including myself, this season was going to be very entertaining based on everything that went down in the offseason. And when playoff time came, this was still true. The games were not blowouts like last season, and new contenders such as the Raptors, Rockets, Trailblazers and hell, even the 76ers emerged as favorites to dethrone the Cavs and the Warriors. And all of Sir Barkley’s outlandish predictions concerning who was to emerge out of each conference would be laid to waste. LeBron steamrolled the Raptors and the Rockets missed 27 straight threes on their way to losing to the Bay Area’s evil empire.
This sequence of events set up a Cavs vs. Warriors showdown for the fourth straight year, causing outrage from the regular NBA fan. I thought this series was bound to be a repeat of last year’s snoozefest, or even worse. The Warriors were supposed to easily sweep the Cavs, who were far weaker compared to a year ago. They entered Thursday’s game as 12 point favorites, making the Cavs the biggest underdog in NBA Finals history. By the end of the night, I was perplexed as to what just happened. The game was close for almost its entirety, and only in OT did the Warriors manage to pull away.
Hopefully, this Game 1 is a sign of things to come in what should be an exciting series.
LeBron’s Heroics Still Not Enough
The narrative of LeBron having no help has been going on for almost all season long. And after Game 1, it has definitely picked up steam again. James scored 51, dished out 8 assists, and grabbed 8 boards, carrying the Cavs like he’s been all season to… a loss. Seriously though; How in the hell does someone score 51 against the best team in the league in the finals and end up losing?
Well, it’s definitely fair to say he was playing on his own, as some of his teammates seemingly had too much “Henny” the night before (I’m looking at you, JR). Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. played pretty well, both recording double digit rebounds. However, the backcourt duo of JR Smith and George Hill failed to show up in a meaningful way. As a whole, the team failed to pounce on an off night from Kevin Durant, who shot 8-22 from the field and 1-7 from downtown. We’ll get to what happened at the end of regulation eventually, but for now, the Cavs lost a great opportunity to steal Game 1 in the Oracle.
Draymond Green Proves His Worth
When Draymond Green made the All-Star team back in February, many people were disappointed. The spot he took up could have been reserved for a snub such as Lou Williams, or Paul George. Those who said this only looked at the stat sheets, which looked extremely similar to Lonzo Ball‘s numbers.
What people don’t realize is how valuable of an asset Green is to the Warriors. He already is the best passer and defender on the court at all times, and he shows up when he’s most counted on. Despite the fact that he looks like he has a backpack on when he shoots the ball, he made the last two threes of the game. This all but sealed the game for the Dubs. Despite being a 29% three-point shooter, he acted like he’d been carrying the Warriors the whole game after his second shot.
He committed his fourth foul in OT when the game was all but over, but he spent the next 30 seconds “dancing”, all to the pleasing of everyone at Oracle Arena. Green antagonized the Cavs all game, to the point where Tristian Thompson shoved him when he got ejected. This consequently made him earn a $25K fine.
The point here, despite his near triple double, is that he’s taking his game of being an absolute a**hole to new heights. His on court performances, no matter how bad they could be, are still so valuable to the Warriors. This is based on his effortless ability to be a troll on the court and being the glue that keeps this core together. His methods of madness might be quite radical, but they are effective.
Who’s Really to Blame for JR Smith’s Late Blunder?
Ah, yes. The part of this article you all have been waiting for. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’d know of the events that took place on a Thursday night in Oracle Arena. With 4.7 seconds left on the game, George Hill was at the charity stripe with the Warriors up by 1 point. He sunk the first free throw, evening up the score. With all the pressure in the world, he stepped up to take the second free throw. I’ll let this clip take care of the rest.
Alright, so let’s get the blame train started. Who’s really at fault for this late game gaffe which would eventually doom the Cavs?
Of course, the obvious choice. What in the hell was he thinking? Did he not know the score? “I thought we were ahead,” was what he appeared to say to LeBron James after the clock ran out. Hours later, when interviewed by the press, he said “I might have said that. I’m not sure, but I might’ve.” Smith also said that he was trying to get away from a 7-foot Kevin Durant in order to get a shot off, but he lost track of time. And he also said he was expecting a timeout to be called, which was his reason for running away from everyone in an effort to secure the ball.
Only Lord knows what was going through JR Smith’s mind, but his error will sure go down in the annals of NBA Finals history as the one of the biggest gaffes to ever take place on the big stage.
Well, he’s the one who missed the free throw in the first place, right? Hill, a 9-year vet, has a career 80% success rate from the charity stripe. You’d assume there’s a good chance a seasoned vet would come through in the clutch and make his second free throw. But he didn’t, ultimately prompting JR Smith to do… whatever he thought he was trying to accomplish there.
The Rest of The Cavs:
For everyone blaming JR Smith and George Hill, somebody could have at least called a timeout to draw up a play to get a higher percentage shot. Smith did say that he dribbled to outside the three point line expecting someone to call a timeout, and LeBron James appeared to try and do so. However, no timeout was awarded by the scorer’s table, and consequently, the game was over. The fact that James was the only one to have enough situational awareness to call the timeout tells me that the rest of the team is also at fault to not make an attempt to just call a timeout.
To be continued…
As if an exciting close game wasn’t enough between these two teams who seem to be in the Finals each year, a late game blunder wraps up Game 1 and sets the stage for Sunday night. This is an intense rivalry which has developed for the past four years, and it’ll all come down to who wants it more. Will the Cavs steal a home game from the Warriors, and head into Quicken Loans Arena with the series momentum? Or will the Dubs come out on top, on a mission to quiet the doubters after a chaotic Game 1? Only time will tell, but for now, we shall wait.