Jonas Nader

Basketball Daily Dose

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Dose: GSW Survives LeBron's 51

Friday, June 1, 2018


Warriors 124, Cavaliers 114 (GSW leads 1-0)


This series was considered over by many before it even started, but Game 1 proved otherwise. If not for a peak J.R. Smith moment, the Cavaliers could’ve potentially walked away with a 1-0 lead and home-court advantage. 

 

After LeBron James and Stephen Curry traded baskets in the final minute of a wild fourth quarter, George Hill had a chance to put the Cavaliers up one with a pair of foul shots. He sunk the first one to tie it up, but missed the second and it fell right into J.R. Smith’s lap. Unfortunately, Smith thought the Cavaliers had the lead and he proceeded to dribble out the clock before realizing his mistake. All the momentum the Cavs had was completely ruined and the Warriors ran away with the game in overtime, winning Game 1 by 10 points. 

 

Stephen Curry was the engine of Golden State’s offense, scoring 11 points in the first quarter and finishing with 29 points, nine assists, six rebounds, one steal and five triples. Curry also hit a 3-point bomb from just inside halfcourt to tie the game heading into halftime. He doesn’t have a Finals MVP on his resume yet, but would’ve been the strong frontrunner if not for an insane game by LeBron. Draymond Green was everywhere defensively, racking up five steals and three blocks to go with 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. More importantly, he finally found his shot from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of triples after shooting 2-of-17 from deep in the Houston series. He did pick up his fourth technical foul of the postseason after poking LeBron in the eye, so he’s three more techs away from an automatic one-game suspension. That would be easy to avoid for players not named Draymond and DeMarcus Cousins

 

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We still haven’t seen the best of Kevin Durant in these playoffs, yet he still has enough talent to casually drop 26 points with nine rebounds, six assists and three blocks, becoming just the 12th player since 1984 to record 20+ points and 3+ blocks in a Finals game. He’s tasked with guarding LeBron James while Andre Iguodala (leg) is out, so Curry will have to do most of the heavy lifting for now. Durant wasn't able to slow LeBron down, and that was the case during their two regular season matchups as well. 

 

J.R. Smith tripped and plowed into Klay Thompson early in the first quarter, causing Thompson’s left leg to twist. He had a significant limp and looked dejected heading back to the locker room, but he was diagnosed with a left lateral leg contusion and returned for the second quarter. It looked a lot worse than it actually was and Thompson seemed fine the rest of the night, finishing with 24 points and five triples. There’s no real concern here and Thompson was able to log 45 minutes on the night.

 

The Warriors still don’t know when Andre Iguodala (leg bruise) will return, as this was his fifth straight game on the shelf. Iguodala did say that he is “not too far away” from returning, adding that he has “some really good days” and “really bad days.” He isn’t progressing as quickly as the Warriors hoped, but he’ll continue to be listed as day-to-day and will be re-evaluated prior to Game 2 on Sunday. He’s not a “LeBron stopper” as he’s been advertised, but he can certainly make life difficult for James and the Warriors are a much better team with him on the floor — the Cavaliers had a +13.2 net rating during the 2017 Finals when Iguodala was off the floor and LeBron was on. 

 

With Iggy out for Game 1, the Warriors opted to start Kevon Looney at center, but LeBron James ran circles around him on switches and he was replaced after five minutes with a +/- rating of -5 and no stats. Looney did fare a little better in the second half, but this series seems better suited for Jordan Bell. Bell actually started both regular season games against the Cavaliers, and apart from one or two rookie mistakes, he had a solid shift with four points, two rebounds, two dimes and some nice defense on LeBron. David West got a look early in the second quarter, but similar to Looney, he had a bullseye on his chest and was attacked by LeBron constantly, playing a total of four minutes with two points, one assist and a -6 rating. He probably won’t touch the floor the rest of the series. 

 

LeBron James, appearing in his eighth straight Finals, was locked in early, hitting his first six shots and finishing with 24 points by halftime. He was a bit gassed in the third quarter and at one point missed five straight shots, but got back on track after a quick breather and activated cheat codes down the stretch, finishing with a playoff career-high 51 points. He was 19-of-32 from the field and 10-of-11 from the line, adding eight rebounds, eight assists, one steal, one block and three triples in 48 minutes. This was his seventh Finals game with 40+ points, 5+ assists and 5+ rebounds, and he’ll probably need to average 45+ points in this series for Cleveland to have a chance. James also drew a charge on Kevin Durant in the final minute of regulation, but the refs controversially reversed the call. 

 

Kevin Love cleared the concussion protocol a few hours before tip-off and didn’t have any restrictions, scoring 21 points with 13 rebounds and one assist. One thing to keep an eye on is that Love jumped off the bench and stepped onto the court during a late scuffle, something that may cost him a suspension according to league rules (link).

 

Tristan Thompson was a beast in the Boston series and held Al Horford in check, but he was quiet in Game 1 of the Finals, scoring two points with five rebounds in 20 minutes. The Warriors aren’t using a traditional center at all, so Thompson could lose minutes to Larry Nance going forward. Speaking of Nance, he was Cleveland’s third best player tonight and set the tone in the second quarter, finishing with nine points, 11 boards and one steal in 19 minutes. Don’t be surprised if he starts Game 2. 

 

J.R. Smith had 10 points, two triples and one epic Shaqtin’ a Fool highlight, while Jordan Clarkson was terrible and played H-O-R-S-E for 17 minutes, jacking up wild shots and finishing with four points on 2-of-9 attempts. Kyle Korver added three points in 17 minutes, while Jeff Green played a whopping 36 minutes with seven points, five assists and three boards. The fact that LeBron nearly outscored his teammates was both impressive and sad, and you have to wonder if the Cavaliers blew their only chance of stealing a game in Golden State. Game 2 is set for Sunday night in Oracle Arena. 





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