Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors stole a Game 1 victory despite an all-time great Finals performance by LeBron James.
There isn’t much more LeBron James can do out there. He became the sixth player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in an NBA Finals and somehow, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors ripped the rug right out from under him. This game was complete with a halftime buzzer beater, late-game drama, and a very soft altercation in overtime.
To be fair, George Hill and J.R. Smith did more to lose this game than anyone on the Warriors did to win it down the stretch. After Hill missed a free throw that would have given the Cavaliers a one-point lead with mere seconds left to play, Smith secured the offensive rebound and inexplicably dribbled the clock out.
The play that decided Game 1. pic.twitter.com/e1UeOv57Rn
— ESPN (@espn) June 1, 2018
New York Knicks fans know that J.R. Smith. He lost track of the score with four seconds left in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Never change, man. It’s incredibly ironic that the Cavs lost this game in large part because J.R. didn’t want to shoot the ball.
Once overtime came, the Warriors realized they were playing in the NBA Finals and they turned on the afterburners. Paced by 29 points from Curry, the Dubs took control in overtime and ended up winning by double digits. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson had 26 and 24 respectively. And not to be outdone, Draymond Green was his usual self. He contributed a double-double and some late-game taunting that led to a scuffle with an already ejected Tristan Thompson.
And the tempers flaring in overtime was not the sole controversy in this game. With less than a minute to play, James drew a charge against Durant and the Cavs were going to get the ball with an opportunity to make it a two-possession game.
LeBron James takes the charge on Durant's drive. pic.twitter.com/nafLGHgTUt
— RealGM (@RealGM) June 1, 2018
Instead, the referees reviewed the call and ruled it a charge. Durant was awarded two free throws and all of the sudden, the game was tied once again.
At one point, it looked like LeBron was about to shock the world and steal the first game of the series—almost singlehandedly. Kevin Love put in a solid effort with 21 points and 13 rebounds, but other than James and Love, only one other Cavalier was in double-figures. It just so happens, that it took Smith 10 shots to get 10 points.
So the fact of the matter is that James very nearly upended one of the greatest teams of all time by turning in one of the greatest performances of all time. He added eight rebounds and eight assists to a whopping 51-point night.
But the saddest part about this is that the series probably doesn’t get much better than this. The Cavs needed an all-time great performance from LeBron just to have a chance to beat the Warriors. Never count out King James, but it would be unwise to expect a repeat performance. Back-to-back games like that just don’t happen often, but if there is anyone who could pull that type of performance off in Game 2, it’s LeBron.
This was their chance at getting a fair shot in this series. Andre Iguodala’s health is still an unknown, but you have to expect he returns at some point. Once that happens, the Warriors should be able to contain James better than they did tonight. Of course, they won’t be able to stop him completely, but Iguodala is historically one of the best one-on-one defenders against James.
Anyone who was complaining about parity and a fourth straight NBA Finals featuring the Warriors and the Cavaliers can kindly take their opinion and keep it to themselves. Unfortunately, it probably doesn’t get much better than this game for the rest of the series, but regardless, this was an instant classic.
Fans watch the NBA because they want to see greatness. Tonight they saw one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the sport. Fans also saw one of the greatest teams in the history of the sport do what they do best—rip your heart out when you least expect it.
Warriors in four.