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Five quick takes on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 124-114 overtime loss to the host Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
1. For most of four quarters, the Cavs had a chance. But can you can’t make mistakes late against the Warriors, and the Cavs made two biggies at the end of regulation. And that’s putting it gently.
2. The first was George Hill missing a free throw with 4.7 seconds left and the score tied at 107-all. That happens. It’s not ideal, but it happens. And there’s no guarantee that the Warriors wouldn’t have made a game-winner after a timeout. But Hill missed … and J.R. Smith grabbed the offensive rebound of the season. That’s when the second major mishap took place. It was perhaps the biggest blunder of Smith’s career. He actually had an open look in the lane after snatching the ball. For some reason, he dribbled it back out to the 3-point line. Actually, we know the reason.
3. How can you not know the score in Game 1 of the Finals with less than five seconds left? It honestly would have been better for the Cavs and their fans — and mostly, for J.R. — if he had never grabbed that rebound. “He thought it was over,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “He thought we were up one.” Wow.
4. Eventually, the Warriors will break you down. We all knew it was coming in the OT. We knew the Cavs would have to be even better in those final five minutes. They were considerably worse. They were deflated. LeBron James gave one of the most remarkable performances in postseason history, erupting for an amazing 51 points. It. Was. Otherworldly. And it was all for naught. The Cavs totally fell apart, allowing the Warriors to break free for open looks, and then obnoxiously dance, prance and talk trash. It resulted in a Tristan Thompson ejection, followed by Thompson shoving the ball in Draymond Green’s face (which Green totally deserved). The Cavs had a great opportunity, and just didn’t finish.
5. Kevin Love actually gave a strong performance with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Smith finished with 10. Steph Curry led the Warriors with 29, Kevin Durant went for 26 and Klay Thompson had 24. See the difference there? The Cavs had three guys hit double figures, and Smith barely did so. The Warriors had five guys in double figures, and three emphatically so. I still think the Cavs can win this. Honest. They played especially hard and for all but about those final five seconds of regulation, they played pretty smart. But they need at least one more player to score around 15 or more points. And they can’t unravel, ever again. I’ll have lots more in Dribbles later. (And yes, I’ll have some things to say about the officiating.)
BONUS TAKE: LeBron, Smith and the Cavs can’t let this one get to them. They need to come out with the same determination in Game 2. This just might be a series yet.