By: Rob Botts
It’s one game. One game of the 2015 NBA finals. One game out of seven. One overtime period that sank the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hopes of stealing Game 1 of this gigantic match-up between two franchises
Both dying to win a world title for their respective cities; one lost opportunity for LeBron James, with one step taken forward by the Golden State Warriors.
This one started as many people suspected. Both teams seemed tight and a bit rusty from the long period in between both squads clinching their respective conferences, and depositing those first few drops of sweat onto the hard wood in Game 1 of the finals. The familiar moves were still there, but the ball just wouldn’t drop for the Warriors at any consistent rate.
Cleveland struggled early as well, but then suddenly caught their stride. LBJ was hitting his mid-range jumper and was in attack mode like he has been all playoff long this year. He was finding a very comfortable home down in the mid to low post areas, where would be Warrior defenders tried helplessly to stop or slow him down.
This year’s MVP, Stephen Curry, struggled early, and was more passive than he normally is. But as the game wore on, he found his groove with short jumpers and moved back to familiar international waters where he shot his quick release trifecta with accustomed accuracy. Cleveland was pounding the Warriors off the glass and getting a great deal of their positive offense results from isolation situations and cuts in the paint. The Warriors were getting out on the break when they could for easy buckets or transition jumpers. They also were taking advantage of a few defensive assignment miscues that enabled Golden State to cut into the lead that Cleveland gained in the first half.
Shooters keep shooting. It’s what they do. And if they aren’t shooting well, guess what? They keep shooting, and eventually they will get hot. Cleveland’s J.R. Smith tends to tickle the twines when he gets his shot going. The guy nailed two deep shots early, and then didn’t see the ball for what seemed like an eternity. The ball spent most of it’s time in the King’s hands. Those hands would attempt 38 shots in this game, 18 of them finding bottoms. But this type of one-on-one isolation offense, which has served the Cavs well in their playoff run this year, was effective before the finals because of the constant double teaming by opponents that would enable James to find his teammates for open shots and cutters. Golden State and head man Steve Kerr flipped the defensive script and very rarely fully double-teamed James. LeBron scored 44 points, but when he dominates shots and points, his team doesn’t fare as well as when he is their top assist man, along with being that point forward catalyst to keep all involved and fresh in the offensive sets.
Another young man who likes to shoot the ball as well, Klay Thompson, was no where to be found until the second half, where he began to be much more aggressive. He hit some pull-up jumpers within the flow of the offense. He drove to the bucket. He got to the foul line multiple times. He hit a huge pull up three-point shot after Cleveland had just answered a Golden State bucket. He, like his teammates, began doing “what they do”, as so many athletes like to say about their guys. Harrison Barns put his hustle hat on and hit some big corner shots. Draymond Green had his aggressive drives and mouth working in the second half, as well. But mostly, it was Andre Iguodala who hit some clutch shots and played some tough defense on James at the end of regulation and overtime that enabled Golden State to pull this Game 1 out.
It was only one move. One slick move to the right by Kyrie Irving in the overtime period, that had him on his butt and then slowly and emotionally off to the showers from some sort of aggravation of an injured lower extremity. Cleveland will need this man back next game at some sort of effective capacity to even have a chance of taking down the favorite sons of northern California. Irving will take it one day at a time. One game at a time. One big chance at a time.