WARRIORSWORK OT INWILD GAME 1WIN
Dubs dodge several bullets, 51 from LeBron, as Curry leads the way to 1-0 lead
OAKLAND » Heading into Game 1 of the fourth consecutive WarriorsCavs NBA Finals matchup, there was talk of boredom, disinterest, and fatigue. People were sick of the same two teams going at it for basketball’s ultimate prize. So much so that there were tickets available at the Oracle Arena box office as the game tipped off.
I doubt anyone is pushing that narrative after the Warriors’ 124-114 overtime victory Thursday.
Game 1 was thrilling, upsetting, exemplary, controversial and downright wacky.
We saw the Warriors at their best and the Warriors at their most dis- engaged. Not even the Finals could get this team to put forward a concerted, full 48-minute effort.
We saw what looked like the end of Klay Thompson’s season, as he twisted he knee in a nasty collision with J.R. Smith, only to see him come back into the game and score 24 points, most of them with a limp.
We saw the greatest player of a generation — perhaps the greatest player in history — LeBron James, turn in one of the finest perfor-
mances of his career, scoring 51 points, dragging the Cavs, almost singlehandedly, to a victory.
We saw Cleveland’s enigmatic J.R. Smith pass up a game-winning, open layup in the final seconds of a tied game to dribble toward halfcourt and run out the clock, thinking the Cavs were up by at least one point.
We saw the Warriors take advantage of that incredible blunder by outscoring the Cavs 17-7 in the overtime period.
And then we saw the two fierce rivals push and shove each other in the final seconds of the game, with Tristan Thompson being ejected for a cheapshot foul on Shaun Livingston with 2.6 seconds remaining.
In other words, Thursday’s game was anything but boring.
And make no mistake, the Warriors were lucky to escape Game 1 of the NBA Finals with a win.
But at the same time, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Warriors are far and away the better team in this series and that will bear out over the next few games.
Such is the greatness of James that the Cavs stood a shot in Game 1. Such was the languor of the Warriors that they gave James a chance to make things close.
Kevin Durant had a downright bad game — shooting 8 of 22 from the field in the contest and missing all four of his field-goal attempts in the final quarter to help let James and the Cavs take a lead in the final minute of regulation.
That, paired with the Cavs’ prodigious offensive rebounding (Cleveland had 19 on the night — Golden State had four), the Warriors’ average 3-point shooting and James’ exceptional performance made Game 1 interesting.
It’s not a formula the Cavs should feel comfortable they can re- create in Games 2 and beyond.
The conditions were perfect for Cleveland to steal a game. And if James could steal one, you could be that he would take two — forcing a Game 6 in Cleveland with a chance to push the series to seven games.
Thursday was the Cavs’ opportunity; the massive underdogs threaded the needle.
So for the Warriors to claim Game 1 and take control of the series — in the manner that they did — is a gut-punch of the highest order.
The Warriors will clean up the mess they created. They’ll devise a plan to neutralize the Cavs’ offensive rebounding and will devise a scheme that blends Durant isolation plays with the Stephen Curry-led motion offense.
And you can bet after the scare of Game 1, they’ll be engaged for Game 2.
There’s nothing the Warriors can do to stop James, but going into the series, they had conceded the fact that The King could score at will.
“We held back a lot of strategy tonight. We have so many things up our sleeve,” Kerr said, his tongue firmly in his cheek.
But the Warriors believed that James’ teammates wouldn’t be able to combine to score another 60.
And against the Cavs’ porous defense, the Warriors felt extremely comfortable that they could score more than 110 points.
The Cavs did — more or less — exactly what the Warriors were content with them doing. James scored his 50 and the other Cavs needed an overtime period to get more than 60. It was nearly uncanny how it happened.
The Warriors simply couldn’t find their offensive verve Thursday — they didn’t uphold their end of the bargain. Still, they won.
You have to feel bad for James. He deserved better than that.
It was an all-time great individual performance done in by an all-time blunder.
And now, the Cavs are playing from behind against a team they shouldn’t have gotten a chance to take the lead against.
What more could James have possibly done to win the game? Can he possibly do that again for four, five, six more games? As a basketball fan, it seems like such a waste, even if it would have only been a footnote in history.
Alas, the Warriors certainly won’t complain about their good fortune, and they’re unlikely to squander it, either.
So savor the entertainment now. Thursday’s Game 1 might be as good as it gets.
The Warriors’ Draymond Green fouls the Cavaliers’ LeBron James in the second quarter of Game 1of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Thursday. Green received a technical on the play. The Warriors won Game 1in overtime.
The Warriors’ Steph Curry and Shaun Livingston defend against the Cavaliers’ LeBron James in overtime of Game 1of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena.
The Cavaliers’ LeBron James reacts after being called for a foul against the Warriors’ Kevin Durant during the fourth quarter of Game 1of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Thursday. James finished with 51points.