The Warriors defeated the Cavs 124-114 in an OT thriller in game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. So much to digest after game 1. The GSoM crew answered some burning questions:
Headed into game 1, what kind of outcome were you expecting?
Charlie: I thought the Warriors would win big. I thought the Cavs would take Game 2. Hopefully I’m wrong about both.
Nate P: I assumed a five-game series with LeBron coming up with one huge game in Cleveland to get that one win. I haven’t changed that after last night, but I’m somewhat stunned that Game 1 was close at all, much less an OT affair.
Duby: I wasn’t trying to have much of an expectation, because these first games are always pretty wonky. I thought the point spread sounded just about right though, and somehow, we ended up right around that margin of victory - I just don’t think anyone would have predicted we got there in the manner we did.
Daniel: I expected the Warriors to win by double digits. I did not expect the Cavaliers to take so many punches to the face and hang in there as long as they did. That team is RESILIENT…. and ultimately doomed.
Tom: I was definitely expecting a win though I didn’t think the Warriors were going to be able to blow the Cavaliers off the court/knew it would be closer than I would have liked. What I wasn’t expecting was just how great LeBron James was going to be. I mean, I knew he was going to play exceedingly well and keep the Cavaliers in the game but I didn’t expect a “good lord, LeBron” performance to come in the first game.
Greg: Honestly, I was expecting a complete beat down. Outside of LeBron, the talent disparity is too large. Without Kyrie, it felt like a huge hole was missing. I knew LeBron was going to have something like a 40 point triple double because he’s done it year after year in the Finals.
Patrick: I was expecting the Warriors to come out and lay a dud in Game 1. Coming off an emotionally and physically exhausting rollercoaster of a series, and with everyone expecting a cakewalk in the Finals, the scene was set for a classic Warriors let down. It wasn’t quite as bad as I expected, but if JR Smith wasn’t JR Smith then we’d be having a very different conversation about defensive effort, rebounding, and complacency.
What did you make of the charge at the end of the game that was later reversed and overturned as a blocking foul on LeBron James?
Duby: Meh, whatever. It was a pretty quick, bang-bang play. I wouldn’t have freaked out either way. That said, it’s pretty clearly a block (to my eyes) because LeBron never stopped moving, and had his body turned. I find the uproar pretty funny, but otherwise I just think it was one of many plays that helped decide the game.
Daniel: Real time, I was like “KD, you fool!” It looked like a charge for sure to my eyes, as everyone in the arena knew KD was going to go 100 MPH towards the rim, a la Harden or Westbrook would (shout out to Scotty Brooks “Turbo To Rim Training”). But, on the replay, LeBron was clearly still sliding into KD”s path, as opposed to being set and waiting (shout out to Shane Battier’s “How To Take A Charge” DVD that Lebron clearly didn’t watch).
Tom: It was the right call to make. That was either a blocking foul on James or a no-call and I would lean towards the former. Though LeBron was outside of the restricted area, the importance of the call and the moment in which it came made the review of it worthwhile in my eyes and it was more than within the referees purview to overturn that call. The way in which Ken Mauer hesistated when he made the initial offensive foul call seemed to show that even he wasn’t sure and thus benefited from a review. It was the right call. Blaming the referees is just a way of finding someone to blame or to desperately try to find some meaning beyond “the Cavaliers let this one get away.”
To be clear, the officials’ instant replay review of the @KDTrey5 @KingJames block charge play was CORRECT! James was not in a legal guarding position so the contact was a BLOCK. You can’t not make the call just because it’s @KingJames @espn #firsttake— Stu Jackson (@StuJackson32) June 1, 2018
Greg: I thought the play would stand. I hate that type of foul because it’s just a player running to spot to draw a foul. It’s just a way to bait the opponent but it is what it is. When it was overturned, I was shocked. In my opinion, that was the biggest swing in the game. Could have been Cavs up 4 with 10-15 seconds remaining had they gotten the possession and a bucket.
Patrick: It was clearly a block. LeBron’s shoulder is turned into KD and his feet weren’t set. If they hadn’t reversed it, it would have been an egregious error that Warriors fans would have been in uproar about. I can understand Cavs fans being a bit upset about it but independent observers should care about getting the call right.
Nate P.: I’m glad someone finally brought up LeBron clearly turning his shoulder into KD — that’s one of those things you learn not to do in high school when you’re trying to draw a charge. I’m sort of stunned this has even become a discussion because we should value getting calls right above all else.
NBA's Last 2 Minute Report sticks by reversal on KD/LeBron charge/block: "It was confirmed that James was outside the restricted area. Replay showed James was not in a legal guarding position because he was turning his body and moving into Durant when contact occurred."— Marla Ridenour (@MRidenourABJ) June 1, 2018
Imagine you were J.R. Smith at the end of the game, what is currently going through your mind in these finals seconds?
Charlie: To be honest, when I watched J.R. I thought the Cavs had the lead too. He tricked me. I’m thinking, “Damn KD’s box out was weak” or “I probably should have waited until the end of the game to smoke a bowl.”
Duby: Am I me? Or J.R.? If it’s me, I’d probably go for a quick put back. Even with KD right there, you have to take a shot at getting to the line, at least. Alternatively, Lebron was WIDE open on the top. If there was one thing this game proved, it was “give the ball to Bron.” There were any number of options there, it’s hard to imagine a worse decision in that situation. But If I’m JR Smith, then I would just do what he did. Because this is like my angry dad asking me what I was thinking when I walked around the perimeter of our house kicking in all the screen that covered up the vents. “What were you thinking” is a dumb question, because in that situation, there is no thought - you’re just doing. I feel that’s how JR exists, instead of an ongoing internal monologue, it’s like the sound you hear when you put a seashell to your ear.
Tom: In light of his postgame comments, I could see the logic in Smith bringing the ball out while knowing the score was tied. Putting up a contested shot in the lane with a seven-footer in Durant there to potentially block it? It might have made more sense to bring it out and get it to James with a head of steam (which had been the best Cavaliers offense all game).
Daniel now possessing J.R. Smith’s body: The Warriors are destined to win, and I am a mere footnote in their great dynastic story. I will do the right thing, and run away with the ball, so that I do not impede their beautiful dominance. They will look back on this and reward me with a minimum contract in the future, and I will continue in the “zany backup shooting guard” role that Brandon Rush, Ian Clark, and Nick “Swaggy P” Young created before me.
JR Smith goes back in his explanation of his execution at the end of Game 1 because he knew the game was tied: “After thinking about it ... I can’t say I was sure of anything at that point”— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 2, 2018
Greg: If I was JR Smith I am running off the court claiming the victory. “I wanted the game ball. I had the clutch rebound over Durant to seal the victory. Oh wait, what? Oh damn, my bad I thought we were up. My bad LeBron; I just got so excited that everything went into a complete blur. I snatched that rebound and just ran for my life.”
Patrick: ‘To score you have to shoot, to score more you have to shoot more!’
‘No, wait, I’ve been derided as a chucker all my career. Now is my time to prove what I’m really about.’
Which player were you most impressed with after game 1?
Charlie: LeBron. After that, Steph. Steph’s drives to the hoop are so purposeful. His offense and defense were awesome in Game 1. He wants the Finals MVP.
LeBron: I’m going to go with Steph Curry here. Say what you will about the light skinned under-sized, “not a true point guard” point guard - dude had an impressive night on both ends of the court. Beyond his individual accolades (29 points (7-14 from deep. 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals), he was masterful - first to force OT with that driving layup where he got knocked in the head, and then again in overtime. The guy really does make his entire team better, while somehow managing to get his points in when we need them.
Daniel: Andre Iguodala. Who knew that old man’s defense was the only thing keeping LeBron from dropping 50 in a Finals game!?
Tom: Obviously LeBron was beyond impressive in Thursday night’s game, but I was particularly impressed with Klay Thompson. He left the game with that terrifying injury, came back, and played almost like nothing had happened. Thompson was already dealing with one leg-related injury and then he suffers another one, so you know he’s in a great deal of pain and discomfort. But he played through it and put in an impressive performance and one that the Warriors needed to steal this game.
Greg: LeBron was playing at an unbelievable level. Even late in the fourth he looked fresh as ever. It was an all time effort but still ended in a loss. What a wasted effort. Other than that, Jordan Bell was solid. His defense on LeBron at times was very impressive.
Patrick: Got to go with Steph (other than LeBron, who continues to be otherworldly). He was great all the way through, and managed not to wait until the third quarter before dicing fools up. At times I just wanted him to just take over and splash the Cavs into submission, but he did a great job running the whole game and making sure everyone was involved while still playing aggressively himself. A few more games like that and he’ll have himself a nice shiny Finals MVP trophy at last.
On the flip side, who were you least impressed with?
Charlie: KD. It seems like the guy is searching for his rhythm. We’ve come to expect so much from him and when he doesn’t go for 30 with ease, we get on him. His rebounding though has left a lot to be desired.
Daniel: Tristan Thompson. Bruh, punching Draymond Green’s face with the ball is literally the last thing you want to do. Green has most likely been replaying that cheap shot over and over in his head, and will probably hit 5 threes next game in a snarling rage.
Duby: I’m going for a wholesome answer: no one. Not one single player disappointed me, because they all played hard and did whatever they could. Though… I wish maybe Durant would step away from the ISO ball a bit, and I certainly wouldn’t complain if Looney got a little less shy, offensively. Overall though? I thought the team did pretty well. Each player contributed something, and I can’t really come up with any super egregious “wtf!?” plays.
Tom: I think the Durant criticism gets overblown (his numbers reflect a decent game from him, not the clunker that people seem to think it is) but he does need to play better going forward. The ball needs to be in Steph’s hands as much as possible and Durant shouldn’t be initiating the action as much as he is right now. It’s best for the team and allows Durant to play better as well. Those iso plays that everyone hates can be effective, but only if they’re deployed in the correct way and they aren’t right now. That said, I fully expect Durant to make like the Millenium Falcon and fly in during the closing minutes of a game and do something to seal a Warriors win.
Kerr on Kevin Durant: “He knows he didn’t play very well in Game 1. He’s excited for Game 2.”— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) June 2, 2018
Greg: Jordan Clarkson. This guy just didn’t seem to know what the hell was going on when in the rotation. I really cannot understand how this guy is getting minutes in the NBA Finals. Can you waive a guy during the NBA Finals?
Patrick: No one going with JR?! Guess that’s the nature of the expectations game. Got to say though, KD’s sudden reluctance to box out is strange. He rebounded really well last year but he looks a little out of sorts right now. They have some things still to work through there. Wouldn’t be surprised if Zaza makes a cameo at some point.