2018 NBA Finals: Talking points as Warriors beat Cleveland 124-114 in Game 1
Golden State Warriors take a 1-0 series lead in the NBA Finals after an overtime win against Cleveland Cavaliers in Game One at The Oracle
Warriors avoid sloppy start
It wasn’t an easy watch for Dubnation in the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors managed to get past the Houston Rockets in seven – but it was uncomfortable for Steve Kerr’s men. The defending NBA champions relied upon their famous Third Quarter push in Games 6 and 7 to reach a fourth consecutive NBA Finals. The Warriors have allowed sloppiness to creep in. While LeBron James got the Cavs on the board with the first points of the game, Steph Curry made a brisk start to set the tone for Golden State. He hit a couple of early threes to settle the Warriors. The Cavs threatened to end the half with a lead but it was Curry who inspired a late flurry. The No30, who is still to win NBA Finals MVP, hit a three from deep to tie up Game 1 at the half. He ended the half with 18 points, six shy of LeBron.
LeBron’s good work undone by JR Smith
LeBron’s performance at Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference ensured an eighth straight NBA Finals appearance for 33-year-old, who many consider to be the greatest of all-time. He set the tone in the first half as the three-time NBA champions looked to be in control. LeBron led the field with 12 points at the end of the First Quarter and quickly took his tally to 20. With 20 points from nine field goal attempts, James was playing the perfect Game 1 before he finally took a seat on the bench after 18 minutes. Kevin Love, who returned on Thursday night after missing Game 7 in Boston, led the rest of the Cavs team with 16 points. But it was Lebron who troubled the Warriors with a succession of threes. The Cavs star reacted furiously when he was penalised for a shooting foul at 6:43 in the Fourth Quarter. His dissatisfaction with the decision got the Oracle crowd involved and shifted the momentum once again. Dubnation’s energy transferred to the players as Draymond Green and Curry hit consecutive threes to restore their six-point lead. LeBron wasn’t done, though. A thunderous dunk before a driving layup left the Cavs with a one-point lead as James headed to the free throw line with 50.8 seconds remaining. He dispatched both attempts. However, he was called up for a controversial shooting foul after a lengthy review. Kevin Durant dispatched both free throw to level at 104-104. With 4.7 seconds on the clock, JR Smith got an offensive rebound but instead of looking to take a shot or finding a team-mate, he inexplicably ran the clock out. In that moment, the Cavs best chance of victory was gone. He finished with 52 points but looked tired (and frustrated) at the close.
Trademark Third Quarter
The Warriors’ talisman at the start of the Third Quarter came in an unlikely source: JaVale McGee. The 7ft 0ins center produced some dogged defense to halt LeBron at the start of the quarter. McGee contributed consecutive buckets to help the Warriors build a seven point lead with a 10-3 run. However, his fine run came to an end when he allowed a pass to go between his legs before miscuing a simple dunk. The momentum shifted back to the Cavs, with LeBron narrowing the deficit with a 28-foot three point jumper. When he made an even deeper three, the Cavs threatened to wrestle back control of Game 1. However, Curry came up with an immediate answer to steady the Warriors, who went on a 11-2 run. The defending champions ended the quarter six points up to put them within striking distance of 1-0 series lead.
Klay injury scare
Klay Thompson headed for the locker room with 6:17 left in the first quarter. The No11, who scored 35 points in Golden State’s Game Six win against Houston Rockets at The Oracle, suffered a leg injury following an incident involving JR Smith. The 28-year-old appeared to land awkwardly after Smith slipped and took out the Golden State shooting guard. Unsurprising, the Cavs No5 guaranteed himself a chorus of boos every time he touched the ball for the rest of Game One. For those who watched the Champions League final, the incident was not too dissimilar to Sergio Ramos’s challenge on Mohamed Salah that eliminated the Liverpool FC star from the showpiece. There was no intent but taking out one of Golden State’s All-Stars would certainly be a convenient benefit. He returned in the Second Quarter to rapturous applause from the Oracle home base before he sunk his first three of the night. He ended Game 1 with 24 points.
LeBron and Curry swapped driving lay ups in the final seconds but the No30 gave the Warriors a slight advantage when he was fouled and headed to the free throw line. In a late twist, Klay Thompson fouled George Hill to give Cavs No3 the chance to win Game 1. Having missed two earlier, he hit his first before missing to force overtime. Having given so much in 48 minutes, the Cavs couldn’t live with the Warriors in overtime. Durant scored two free throws before Klay Thompson sunk a three from the corner. Shaun Livingston made a two-point shot to prompt a Cavs timeout with a seven-point cushion. The Warriors No34 dunked to continue the momentum. When Green and Thompson landed three point efforts, Game 1 was up. There still time for some late drama between Curry and LeBron and Green and Tristian Thompson. You have to wonder whether LeBron and the Cavs have given it their best shot in Game 1 and what’s left in tank for the remainder of the series.
-Curry is now the Warriors’ all-time leader in postseason free throws with 379, passing Rick Barry (378) on the franchise’s all-time list.
-Thompson (293 career playoff threes) has passed Kobe Bryant (292) for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time postseason threes list.