Warriors win as Cleveland hearts break
For 47 minutes, the Cavaliers were on top and looked like they were going to shock the world. Then disaster struck.
A divisive overturned blocking foul on LeBron James, a missed George Hill free throw with 4.7 seconds left and J.R Smith dribbling out the clock after rebounding the miss and not attempting a shot later, and the Cavaliers had wasted their best chance to steal Game 1.
The Warriors outscored the visitors in overtime 17-7 and won 124-114, in a game that they needed a lot to go their way (referees’ whistles included) to come out victorious.
James finished with 51 points on 19-of-32 shooting and added eight rebounds and eight assists for good measure.
Despite his best efforts, Game 1 will be remembered for Smith’s end of game brain fade.
Having done the hard work and rebounded over Kevin Durant following the missed free throw, Smith seemingly forgot that the Cavs were tied and not ahead as he dribbled from inside the key to beyond the three-point arc and just inside the half court line.
The gaffe could be series altering, as it will probably be the best chance Cleveland has at stealing a win at Golden State and could affect the Cleveland players mentally beyond the final buzzer sounding.
Stealing defeat from the jaws of victory would be heartbreaking, so their response in Game 2 will go a long way in showing how the rest of the series will go.
Despite the shattering loss, Cleveland should still be buoyed by how they played. While they weren’t perfect for all 53 minutes, they did a good job at switching on defence and slowed the pace of play down, not allowing the Warriors to play their game of quick ball movement and fast paced offence.
The Cavaliers did allow 28 fast break points which normally results in a thrashing at the hands of the Warriors, but did enough defensively to recover from such a poor game in transition.
James’ historic night may have covered faults the Cavaliers have, but if they can replicate their play in Game 2 and beyond and make minor adjustments, the series will be a lot closer than most (yours truly included) predicted.
Kevin Love played his best game for some time, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, but shot just one-of-eight from beyond the arc.
Larry Nance Jr provided huge minutes off the bench for the Cavaliers with nine points and 11 rebounds, his equal game-high four offensive rebounds vital in giving the Cavs second chances on offences.
The Warriors were led by Steph Curry who scored 29 points but would by no means be thrilled with how Game 1 went.
The Cavaliers neutralised their game for stretches and were it not for poor three-point shooting from the visitors (just 10-of-37 from three), the Warriors would be down in the series.
But as they have done so often in the past four seasons, Golden State found a way to win.
Questionable calls from the referees hurt the Cavaliers but, in the end, poor shooting and a J.R Smith brain fade cost Cleveland.
Game 2 starts at 10am on Monday morning.