June 2, 2018
The 2018 NBA Finals where the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors would meet for the 4th consecutive season, will be one of the years most viewed events on television, with over 17 million viewers tuning into ABC to watch the first game, which should forever be remembered as the JR Smith game. But, before I explain why it should be recognized as this, lets set the scene of one of the best games we will ever see in not only Finals history, but in the career of LeBron James. The game began with The Cavaliers controlling the tip and Mr. James getting to work very early with the first basket of the game and a three to follow. Steph Curry also was big in the beginning minutes with consecutive buckets for the Warriors as well as an assist to Kevin Durant, who had a very quiet night. The first quarter would be the battle of the former MVPs, with LeBron and Curry trading baskets with each other, but also doing there best to facilitate their corresponding offenses. The Cavaliers played with energy and hustle throughout the first quarter, with second chance buckets and defense being important factors to match the Warriors scoring output. LeBron was a different animal in this one, and it was apparent when he drove to the basket with Shaun Livingston on his hip and battled through contact for a two-handed slam that would silence the crowd. The Cavs built a 11-point lead with about 5 minutes remaining, but it would not take long for such a high powered offensive team like the Warriors to diminish this gap, even with Kevin Durant only having 6 points on 2-9 shooting by this point. With two minutes remaining, it was only a three-point game, but LeBron remained aggressive, shouldering the load for the Cavs. As time expired we saw the first “mistake” from JR Smith in which he went for a steal by half court which turned into a deep three pointer for Steph Curry, in which he would drain as the first half expired. JR should’ve stayed square with hands up with this kind of time left, but instead of going into the half with the lead, it was tied at 56, which LeBron and Steph showing the reason why they are recognized as superstars in this league. Kevin Durant would heat up a bit at the end of the second going into the third, but he remained relatively quiet throughout the game. Although the Cavaliers “supporting cast” did not score an abundance of points, the baskets they did score were timely, with threes from George Hill and hustle baskets from others. The Warriors of course would make their third quarter run and would form a 7-point lead by 8 minutes remaining in the third, but the Cavs would remain hungry, and the energy they played with would keep them within reach throughout the game. JaVale McGee would make a highlight that sole purpose would be for Shaqtin-a-Fool, he didn’t just miss a wide-open dunk attempt but would do it with the ball never making it above the rim, he was caught under the basket. Many thought this would be a play the Warriors would look back to as the start of the end for them, but things wouldn’t play out this way. LeBron was on the way, with back to back to back long-range shots (with two of the three shots being threes) seeing the bottom of the net, and all of a sudden, the Cavaliers were up 73-70 with just about 4 minutes remaining the third quarter. But it wouldn’t take long for Curry to answer back with a three of his own to tie the game. The Splash Brothers were putting on a shooting display tonight, with both Klay and Steph shooting right around 50 percent from downtown for the game. Kevin Love was the only other Cavalier to score more than ten points. The game would remain close throughout the rest of the fourth quarter with both teams battling from Looney with offensive put backs to Kyle Korver knocking down a three-point shot. With three minutes remaining, the Cavs were down by 4 but Lebron would do all he could to keep his team within striking distance, with aggressive drives to the basket and an and one that showed the true strength of the King. He put the team on his back, and with 36 seconds remaining, the Cavs were up two, and this is where the game became very interesting. Kevin Durant drove to the basket, drawing contact from LeBron James which was originally called a charge but later reviewed and overturned to a blocking foul. This lead to the game being tied, but LeBron would come back with a beautiful finger roll to put them back up two with about 30 seconds remaining. Curry would later drive to the basket with and score while absorbing contact from Kevin Love for the and one, this would put the Warriors up 107-106. With seconds to go, LeBron made his most unselfish play of the game by passing to a streaking George Hill, but he was grabbed and sent to the free throw line. After making the first, he would then miss the second, but JR Smith grabbed the most important rebound of his career. He would then run to half court with the ball thinking the game was over when the game was in fact tied. Overtime. This was the Warriors period, and after another controversial foul call on an attempted George Hill strip, the Warriors would take over in a way we did not see the entire game. The threes began to fall and the ball movement for the Warriors took over and by the closing seconds in the game, most Cavalier players were hot and bothered which lead to a Tristan Thompson ejection. The game would end in the Warriors favor with a 124-114 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The first thing that needs to be addressed is the officiating in this game. Too many calls were missed on both ends of the floor, but it seemed to have hurt the Cavaliers much more than it did the Warriors. To start, the block-charge call was embarrassing for the NBA. LeBron was no where near the restricted area, and if you call a charge, stick with it. It is almost surprising that a man who has played some of the most dominating basketball we have seen in playoff history did not get the benefit of the doubt for the call, and even if it was a block, it should not have been reviewed. In addition, the strip that was called a foul on George Hill in the overtime of Game 1 was another call that changed the feeling and complexion of the game, and it lead to a Klay Thompson three, in which if we further analyze it, he never reestablished himself from being out of bounds. Now, we can discuss the greatness of LeBron James in the initial game in this series. 51 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. If we saw this kind of stat line in any previous NBA Final, it would’ve resulted in a win, but LeBron was robbed of this accomplishment. When LeBron scores this much, is aggressive to find his shot, and shows that he is an offensive force, he sometimes forgets that his has a team that can help him get a better shot. There was a three-minute period of time in the fourth where LeBron did not pass to anyone and dribbled the shot clock out to find a shot, in which most did not end with a make. LeBron can’t play hero ball all the time, but rather use others to make it easier on himself. If the defense only has to focus on LeBron, he becomes easier to stop, but if there is constant ball movement and cutting, it makes the defense alert to all players on the court which will open lanes and shots for LeBron James. The last and most important thing that must be addressed from this game is the missed free throw from George Hill and the incompetence from JR Smith. George Hill is an experienced veteran that must knock down a free throw to close a game that should’ve been the Cavaliers. But missed free throws happen, but with another opportunity from an offensive rebound, the Cavaliers must capitalize, and what JR Smith did was unacceptable. As an NBA player in the NBA Finals it is pertinent that every player knows the score and situation in the game at every given moment, and that is as much as I will say about that.
The Warriors will win Game 2 because they will ride the momentum of Steph Curry and will also have a better contribution from their other superstar Kevin Durant. The Cavs will have to wait to go home to try and even the series after a disappointing and deflating loss in Game 1.
Game 2 will be played in the Bay Area at Oracle on Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 on ABC at 8 p.m. Will the Cavaliers use their frustration as a form of redemption to tie the series at one game a piece or will the Warriors continue their dominance and get one game closer to becoming back to back champions?
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