GAME 1 of these Finals will forever be known as the ‘J.R. Smith game’. I kind of feel for the guy, who in the panic of a close playoff game committed a cardinal sin and as a result, cost his team a chance to win the game. Of course, you can point the finger at 173 other things that changed the outcome of the match throughout what (surprisingly) was a very captivating enthralling first match of the 2018 NBA Finals.
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A lot led up to Smith’s infamous brain fart at Oracle last night. With the Warriors favoured by over double-digits, many people, myself included, expected a Golden State bloodbath, but early on that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Kevin Love, who was playing for the first time since suffering a concussion early in Game 6 of the Celtics series, started out shooting the rock with confidence and when the first timeout was taken Cleveland held a narrow lead.
LEBRON James was doing very LeBron James things, but a lot of the scoring, from both sides actually, was widely spread with everyone getting involved. Jordan Clarkson lived up to his reputation going 1-6 in the first half while KD struggled to find his mojo for Dub Nation. Not all hope was lost with Steph Curry hitting a handful of trademark 3’s in the first half, leading the way for the Warriors throughout the first two periods. His buzzer-beating tray at the half swung momentum the Warriors way and tied the score at 56 apiece.
GOLDEN State then started one of their trademark third-quarter runs threatening to blow the game wide open as they stretched the advantage to seven points. Cleveland (LeBron) responded with a 7-0 run to tie things up with the two sides trading runs for the rest of the second half. Cleveland controlled the tempo and remained in the game, despite Golden State threatening to run away with the game early in the fourth quarter.
WITH under two minutes to go, we had a one-point contest on our hands with fans on the edge of their seats. The last two minutes was crazy right until the final buzzer. After a Durant missed jumper, LeBron converted an and-1 with less than 60 seconds left. 104-102 Cavs. Durant then made a pair of free throws after the refs reversed a charge call on KD and determined it was a block on James instead. 104-104. LBJ lay-up with 32 seconds left, 106-104. Curry lay-up plus the foul and of course, he canned the free throw. 107-106 Dubs. George Hill was then fouled by Klay Thompson and managed to tie the contest at 107 with his first of two free throws. And then…
FIRSTLY, Hill should have made the free throw. Secondly, Kevin Love should never have lazily fouled Curry on his final shot in regulation, allowing the Warriors to edge their noses in front. But most of all, what the hell was J.R. Smith doing? It is a question that will baffle us until the end of time and unfortunately for Smith, it was the turning point in the game. With the wind out of their sails, Cleveland failed to respond in OT, with Golden State taking control and walking their way to a 10 point win. Things got chippy late in the game with Tristan Thompson ejected with just seconds remaining in the contest.
RIGHT up until the final possession in regulation this Game 1 was shaping up as an NBA Finals epic. I guess it will forever be remembered, but for some of the wrong reasons. It was pleasing to see that the Cavs fought throughout the entire contest and didn’t let the Warriors blow them out of the water at any point in time. That being said the Cavs got what will probably be the only off shooting night from Durant and they failed to close it out. KD shot 8-22 from the field and missed six of his seven 3-point tries. You won’t be seeing many of those box scores from last year’s Finals MVP.
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THE close contest has me optimistic for the rest of the series. Did Golden State just survive the best punch that Cleveland can throw? Maybe, but maybe not. With Iggy sidelined there aren’t many other players who can contribute outside of their four All-Stars. As I mentioned on Wednesday, the Warriors need someone else to step up if they are going to win their third title in three seasons. They are still good enough to get by this mediocre Cavs team that frankly, may have overachieved last night. Bring on Game 2.
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