8:00 PM EST, ABC – Line: Warriors -11.5, Over/Under: 215.5
After a thrilling opening salvo featuring a 50-Point Game, questionably overturned calls, missed Free-Throws, and an all-time historic blunder, the NBA Finals rolls on as the Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Two from ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. For the Cavaliers (50-32, 4th in Eastern Conference), one can’t blame them for feeling as if they were robbed of earning an improbable Game One victory, for it felt that there was more than just the cruel Hand of Fate at work in Thursday Night’s 124-114 defeat. For the whole of the contest, Tyronn Lue’s charges did just about everything they could in order to steal Game One, but were nonetheless denied. First and foremost, LeBron James (27.5 PTS, 54.2% FG, 36.7% 3FG, 8.6 REB, 9.1 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.9 BLK, 28.6 PER) was absolutely phenomenal, continuing his otherworldly play throughout these Playoffs into his eighth consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals, becoming just the sixth player in Finals History to score Fifty Points, shooting 19-of-32 from the Field (59.4%), including 3-of-7 from beyond the Arc (42.9%), and adding another Eight Rebounds and Eight Assists to his performance. Unfortunately, unlike the other names on that list, the 4-Time MVP is the only one to do so in a losing effort, further fueling his Offseason exit rumors (though that’s a topic for another day). Cleveland also received a shot in the arm with the return of Kevin Love (17.6 PTS, 45.8% FG, 41.5% 3FG, 9.3 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.4 BLK, 22.4 PER), who missed Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals after suffering a Concussion, but was cleared to participate in Thursday’s outing, producing Twenty-One Points on 9-of-20 Shooting (45.0%), and Thirteen Rebounds. Furthermore, Lue and his Staff clearly did their due diligence in researching the Western Conference Finals, devising an excellent Gameplan that frustrated the Warriors for well over Forty-Eight Minutes of play; the Cavs pummeled the Dubs on the Boards (64-42), earning a wealth of second-chance opportunities via Sixteen Offensive Rebounds, while managing to exploit the few Turnovers they did force (Eight), parlaying that into Fourteen Points. However, the 4-Time Eastern Conference Champions struggled mightily from Downtown, netting just 10-of-37 Attempts (27.0%) with Love going a miserable 1-of-8 (12.5%). Furthermore, as slow as the Pace of Play was (89.5 Possessions), the Cavs were outscored decisively in Transition, with the Warriors outscoring them 28-18 in Fast Break Points. With all that said though, as we stated in opening, Fate would reveal it’s hand before long… There were two major incidents that occurred within the final minute of play that had a seismic influence on Game One, the first of which was a controversially overturned Charge between the aforementioned James and Golden State’s Kevin Durant. With the latter driving towards the Rim, the former quickly slipped into position drawing a crucial Offensive Foul, granting the Visiting Side possession with the game in the balance. However, the Referees quickly entered conclave, eventually overturning the Call, which put Durant on the Free-Throw Line. Moments later, with George Hill (9.4 PTS, 44.4% FG, 35.1% 3FG, 2.7 REB, 2.8 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.6 BLK, 12.2 PER) on the Free-Throw Line attempting to take the lead, the veteran Point Guard saw his second attempt bounce off the rim falling into the arms of J.R. Smith (8.3 PTS, 40.3% FG, 37.5% 3FG, 2.9 REB, 1.8 AST, 0.9 BLK, 8.5 PER) who stormed the Lane, only to inexplicably dribble the ball back out to the 3-Point Line, wasting precious seconds with the score tied. The mercurial Shooting Guard initially claimed that he didn’t know the score (though backtracked heavily in the Postgame), as the affair went into Overtime, where the Visitors were visibly debilitated, outscored 17-7. So the question now remains: where the hell do the Cavaliers go from here? Do they have anything left after giving the Warriors what was unequivocally their best shot? Or have they discovered a blueprint as to how to best the reigning NBA Champions, which they can further take advantage of moving forward?
Meanwhile, if you’re a member of the Warriors (58-24, 2nd in Western Conference), then you have to consider yourself quite fortunate that you were able to come away with a victory in Game One of the NBA Finals, but then again, fortunate could be viewed as the word of the week for the reigning NBA Champions. First and foremost, Steve Kerr and his charges were extremely fortunate to have survived a grueling Western Cofnerence Final against the Houston Rockets, who pushed them to the brink unlike any team before (particularly since acquiring Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016). Trailing 3-2 with the Series shifting to Southern Texas, Golden State pounced upon the misfortune of their opponent, with All-Star Point Guard Chris Paul suffering a severe Hamstring Strain, and even with that said, needed a pair of furious Second Half Rallies in order to return to the Finals for a fourth straight season. Fortune again smiled upon them as they once again would face the Cavaliers (for the fourth consecutive time as well), a team that also endured a harrowing 7-Game Series of their own in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. Lastly, fortune allowed that questionable Offensive Foul to be reviewed and eventually overturned, and allowed the aforementioned Smith to completely lose his mind, gifting the Home Side a fresh start in Overtime to finally put away their persistent opponent. This was one of those games where while the numbers would dictate that Golden State was clearly the superior team, in reality they spent much of the affair barely hanging on to a slim lead; on the whole, the Hosts shot a stellar 51.1% from the Field, including 11-of-36 from beyond the Arc (36.1%), dished out a healthy Thirty-One Assists, feasted on a Dozen Cleveland Turnovers (profiting 13 Points), and made the most of their opportunities in Transition (28 Fast Break Points). The triumvirate of Durant (26.4 PTS, 51.6% FG, 41.9% 3FG, 6.8 REB, 5.4 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.8 BLK, 26.0 PER), Steph Curry (26.4 PTS, 49.5% FG, 42.3% 3FG, 5.1 REB, 6.1 AST, 1.6 STL, 28.2 PER), and Klay Thompson (20.0 PTS, 48.8% FG, 44.0% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 2.5 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.5 BLK, 16.1 PER) combined for a whopping Seventy-Nine Points on 27-of-61 Shooting (44.2%), including 11-of-28 from Three (39.3%), Eighteen Rebounds, and Sixteen Assists, while Draymond Green (11.0 PTS, 45.4% FG, 30.1% 3FG, 7.6 REB, 7.3 AST, 1.4 STL, 1.3 BLK, 16.1 PER) very nearly notched a Triple-Double with Thirteen Points, Eleven Rebounds, Nine Assists, Five Steals, and Two Blocks. However, the Bench wasn’t much of a factor, contributing with Twenty-Six Points, while nothing they did managed to slow down James. This is where the Warriors really miss the presence of veteran Defensive Stopper Andre Iguodala (6.0 PTS, 46.3% FG, 28.2% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 3.3 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.6 BLK, 11.2 PER), who missed yet another outing with a Left Leg Contusion suffered midway through the Western Conference Finals. Iguodala, who was the MVP of the 2015 NBA Finals, has played an integral over these past four years in defending James, with his versatility affording Kerr the luxury of employing his most effective Lineups. Without his services, they’re unable to dictate the style of play to their opponent, and in turn allowing the opposition to do so to them, which was the biggest obstacle for them in the previous Series with the Rockets. With the Bench and the Rotation shorter, the margin for error is much smaller, and now it appears that Fate may be swinging the other way now, with reports of Thompson nursing a sprained Ankle suffered early in Game One, where Smith (of all people) went low on the sharpshooter diving for a loose ball. The only member of the Warriors to play in each and every Playoff Game during this 4-Year Run of success, Thompson will likely start, though it’s anyone’s guess just how effective he’ll be, particularly on the defensive end of the floor where he’ll have to contend with a particular future Hall of Famer.