LeBron's 51 not enough to stop George Hill and JR Smith in Game One as Warriors win 124-114 in Overtime
After defeating the mighty Houston Rockets in seven games during the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors (12-5) met the Cleveland Cavaliers (12-6) for the fourth-straight season. This was the first time in the history of all four major professional sports that two teams faced off in the championship in four-straight years. Both teams were coming off of seven game series in the conference finals, but the Cavaliers played a significantly worse team than the Warriors faced in Houston. The Cavaliers came into the series as the biggest underdogs in the last 16 years of the NBA finals. The Warriors were without Andre Iguodala for game one, but he is nearing a return, and Kevin Love played in Game One for the Cavaliers after missing Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals with a concussion. The Warriors went on to beat the Cavaliers 124-114 in overtime.
The first quarter got started with the Cavaliers going on a quick 4-0 run. They scored first on a post-up from JR Smith, and then got some scoring from Kevin Love and LeBron James, who hit a wide-open three on a blown defensive switch. Their offense was not looking great early, but they were scoring. The Warriors were off to a more crisp start then in the previous series, despite a turnover on the first possession. Stephen Curry was driving the offense early, as the Warriors got their first points on a deep three from Curry. He then connected on an and-1 layup before throwing Kevin Durant an incredible lob on a beautiful pass. Steve Kerr called the first timeout of the game with 6:50 left in the first quarter, and the Cavaliers leading the Warriors 15-12. After the timeout, Stephen Curry drained another very deep three to tie the game, but JR Smith promptly un-tied the game with a three of his own before diving into Klay Thompson’s leg and injuring him. The Cavaliers then got two more points on a LeBron jumper, and the Warriors scored again on two layups from Draymond Green and Jordan Bell. The Bell dunk was wide-open and forced a timeout from the Cavaliers with 5:27 left in the quarter and the lead at just one point. After that timeout, the Cavaliers were able to keep scoring while playing atrocious defense on the Warriors. They did their scoring primarily at the line in the final five minutes of the quarter, whereas the Warriors were still scoring, and playing solid defense, but the Cavaliers were able to score on that defense. The Warriors were getting their scoring from inside the three-point line, with plays like Stephen Curry mid range jumpers to Jordan Bell dunks. The Cavaliers maintained their one-point lead in the first quarter thanks to some costly turnovers down the stretch. As a team, the Warriors were shooting 57.1% from the floor and 25% from three, while the Cavaliers shot 55% from the floor and 33.3% from three. Stephen Curry had 11 points to lead the Warriors, while LeBron James was leading the Cavaliers with 12 points. After the first quarter, the Cavaliers led the Warriors 30-29.
The second quarter started with a dunk by LeBron James on Shaun Livingston, and that was just the beginning of a stellar beginning to the second quarter by LeBron James. He was able to do whatever he wanted on the offensive end, part of that was simply his greatness, and the other part was Kerr had David West playing defense on him. He was doing most of the scoring for the Cavaliers, with a cameo from Larry Nance Jr., who had a putback on LeBron’s only miss of the game to that point. The Warriors were able to keep pace by scoring inside with Shaun Livingston and David West, and two free throws from Pat McCaw. The first time out of the quarter was called with 7:48 left in the half, and the Cavaliers leading 42-35. At the time of the timeout, LeBron had 18 points on 7/8 shooting. LeBron got a layup to fall after the timeout, which the Warriors responded to with an open three. Stephen Curry then got an easy layup after an atrocious offensive possession from the Cavaliers, which forced Ty Lue to call timeout with 6:25 left in the half and the Cavaliers lead cut to four points. George Hill then got a corner three to fall after the timeout, which the Warriors followed with a turnover, which led to a dunk from Larry Nance Jr. Kevin Love then nailed a mid range jumper to give the Cavaliers an 11-point lead before Klay Thompson hit another three, which Stephen Curry followed up with a nice runner to cut the lead back to six-points. During that stretch, LeBron was on the bench, and the Cavaliers managed to add to their lead with him on the bench, which was a surprise to say the least. Kevin Durant then nailed a three to help continue the Warrior run. That run by the Warriors was a 12-3 run to tie the game at 53. The Cavaliers then got three free throws following a technical foul drom Draymond Green on LeBron James, which gave them a three-point lead. That lead was erased on the final possession of the half as Stephen Curry nailed a 30-foot buzzer beater to tie the game at 56 going into halftime. As a team, the Warriors shot a combined 52.4% from the floor and 33.3% from three, while the Cavaliers shot 52.4% from the floor and 23.1% from three. LeBron James was the leading scorer for the Cavs, and was incredible in the first half. He had 24 points on 9/11 shooting. He was also getting help from Kevin Love, who had 12 points on 5/10 shooting. The Warriors were led by Stephen Curry, who had 18 points on 7/12 shooting with six assists and three rebounds. Kevin Durant had 11 points, but had a relatively quiet first half. He had his 11 points on 4/11 shooting. Klay Thompson had eight points at the half, which was incredible due to the fact that it looked like JR Smith broke his leg in the first quarter. He returned and hit a couple nice threes for the Warriors. At the half, the score was tied at 56.
Kevin Durant got a fadeaway jumper to fall to get the third quarter started for the Warriors. JaVale McGee then locked down LeBron on an iso which led to a Draymond Green layup. George Hill answered back, but JaVale could not be denied, throwing down the hammer on the other end before getting a layup to fall. Klay Thompson then got an alley-oop layup to fall (which again is shocking because I am fairly certain he broke his leg), to cap off a 10-3 run for the Warriors. That run forced Ty Lue to call a timeout after just 2:58 and the Warriors grabbing a 66-59 lead. The Cavaliers refused to go away. The Warriors blew several great opportunities after that timeout, as JaVale McGee had a pass go through his legs, and he then got stuffed by the rim on the next possession. LeBron James brought he Cavaliers back to tie the game after nailing two threes. The second three forced a timeout from Steve Kerr with 5:26 left in the quarter with the score tied at 68. Kevon Looney got a tip-in to fall after the timeout to get the Warriors the lead once again. LeBron then hit a free-throw line jumper before nailing a three from Curry range. Speaking of Curry range, Steph would not stand for the three from LeBron, so he answered with a deep three of his own to tie the game once again. The Warriors then went on a 9-2 run to take a lead after Steve Kerr took Stephen Curry out of the game to stagger his minutes with Kevin Durant. That run included a dunk from Kevon Looney, a jumper from Kevin Durant, and a three from Klay Thompson. The dunk from Kevon Looney forced a timeout from Ty Lue with 1:15 left and the Warriors winning 82-75. Kevin Love came out of the timeout and got a hook shot to fall before Kevin Durant threw down a powerful slam on the other end. Larry Nance Jr. then went 1/2 from the line to cut the Warrior lead to just six points heading to the fourth quarter. As a team, the Warriors were shooting 52.3% from the floor and 32% from three, while the Cavaliers were shooting 44.8% from the floor and 26.1% from three. LeBron was going off for Cleveland, and was the only reason they were in the game. He had 36 points on 13/21 shooting with five rebounds and four assists. Both Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry had 21 points for the Warriors. Kevin Durant got his 21 points on 8/18 shooting, while Steph got his on a more efficient 8/14 shooting. After the third, the Warriors led the Cavaliers 84-78.
Jeff Green got the scoring started in the fourth quarter for the Cavaliers with a dunk off of a LeBron cross-court bounce pass. Klay Thompson then got a mid range jumper to fall before LeBron threw down another massive dunk. Klay was then fouled by Kyle Korver on the next possession, resulting in three free throws and a seven-point lead. Jeff Green was having none of that lead though, as he answered back with a three, which Kyle Korver followed up with a three to cut the lead to one point. The Korver three forced a timeout from Steve Kerr with 8:52 left in the game and the Warriors winning 89-88. Klay Thompson got the Warriors going after the timeout with a lob to Kevon Looney, which Jordan Clarkson answered with a runner. LeBron James then got a scoop layup to fall to give the Cavaliers a one-point lead, but that lasted all of 15 seconds, as Kevin Durant got to the line and made the first free throw, but Kevon Looney got a putback to fall on the second to regain the lead. The Cavs tied the possession a couple possessions later on a Kevin Love putback, but the Warriors retook the lead on a three from Draymond Green. Stephen Curry then hit a three after being relatively cold in the second half to grab the Warriors a six-point lead. That Curry three forced a timeout from Ty Lue with 4:37 left in the game and the Warriors winning by six. LeBron got a layup to fall after the timeout to get the Cavaliers going, and then he threw down the hammer to cut the lead to four points. Stephen Curry then torched Kevin Love and got a left-handed layup to fall before Kevin Love nailed a second-chance three. The Cavaliers took a lead with under a minute remaining on an and-1 layup, which forced a Steve Kerr timeout. At the time of the timeout, the Cavaliers had a 103-102 lead with a LeBron free throw coming. He made the free throw, but the Warriors then tied the game on two free throws by Kevin Durant, which came after a VERY controversial call that saw a charge on Durant reversed to become a blocking foul on LeBron James. The Cavaliers then called timeout with the game tied and 36.4 second left. LeBron then got an INCREDIBLY tough layup to fall to give the Cavaliers the lead before Stephen Curry got an and-1 layup to fall. The Warriors grabbed the lead on the following free throw with 23.5 seconds remaining. Klay Thompson then sent George Hill to the line with 4.7 seconds left. Hill got one of the free throws to fall, but missed the second, and this game was heading to overtime and the score tied at 107. After missing the second free throw, JR Smith grabbed the rebound and ran to halfcourt, thinking that the Cavaliers had the lead, but that kept the game tied instead of heading to a timeout. As a team, the Warriors were shooting 48.8% from the floor and 30.3% from three, while the Cavaliers were shooting 47.2% from the floor and 26.5% from three. LeBron James led all scorers with 49 points on 19/28 shooting with eight assists and seven rebounds. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 29 points on 11/22 shooting, while Kevin Durant had 24 on 8/22 shooting. Heading to vertime, the score was tied at 107.
The scoring in overtime got started on free throws from Kevin Durant, who went 2/2 to give the Warriors a two-point lead. Klay Thompson drained a corner three on the next possession to extend the lead, and on the next possession Stephen Curry threw a crazy over-the-shoulder pass to Shaun Livingston for an easy shot. The Cavaliers called timeout following the basket by Livingston. At the time of the timeout, there was 3 minutes left in the overtime period and the Warriors were winning 114-107. Shaun Livingston threw down a monster slam after the timeout to extend the lead to nine points, the largest lead of the game for the Warriors. The Cavaliers then got a shot to fall before Draymond Green nailed his second three of the game. LeBron then got two free throws to get his total to 51 points, but Klay Thompson cancelled those out with a three on the next possession. JR Smith then a three to fall with 26 seconds left, but it did not matter, as this game was out of reach, and officially was iced by Shaun Livingston free throws following a tirade from Tristan Thompson, who was ejected from the game, and then tried to pick a fight with Draymond Green. The Warriors hung on to win the game 124-114.
Stephen Curry finished as the Warriors leading scorer with 29 points on 11/23 shooting, while dishing out nine assists, and grabbing six rebounds. Kevin Durant had 26 points on 8/22 shooting, while grabbing nine rebounds, dishing out six assists, and blocking three shots. Those numbers are pretty deceptive though, as he went back to playing by himself a lot, and slowing down the Warriors offense. Klay Thompson finished with 24 points on 8/16 shooting, and hit some of the biggest shots of the game. Draymond Green did his thing as the team’s swiss army knife, and had 13 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, five steals, and three blocks. Shaun Livingston added 10 points, Kevon Looney had eight, JaVale McGee and Jordan Bell had four, while David West, Pat McCaw, and Nick Young each had two points. As a team, the Warriors shot a combined 51.1% from the floor and 36.1% from three.
LeBron James had 51 points on 19/32 shooting, with eight assists and eight rebounds. He was incredible, might be the greatest player of all time, and is now 1-8 in Game Ones of the NBA Finals. He was easily the best player on the floor tonight, and he got a decent amount of help from his team before the final couple minutes of the game and overtime. Kevin Love had a very solid game, with 21 points on 9/20 shooting, though he did go 1/8 from three, but added 11 rebounds. JR Smith had 10 points on 3/10 shooting, but did blow the game for the Cavaliers with his blunder with the clock running out. George Hill had seven points, and missed a free throw that would have won the game, but instead led to that JR Smith blunder. Jeff Green had seven, Jordan Clarkson had four, Kyle Korver had three, and Tristan Thompson had two points. As a team, the Cavaliers combined to shoot 44.9% from the floor and 27% from three, though LeBron did more than enough to get a win for his team.
Now, while I wont go out and condemn the officials for questionable calls late in the game, I will say that the Warriors definitely got lucky and caught some breaks. That blocking foul on LeBron with less than a minute left in the fourth could have gone either way, but ultimately I felt that the correct call was made. The place where the Warriors really got lucky was with 4.7 seconds left in the game, and they got lucky twice. First, George Hill, a career 80% free throw shooter, missed his second free throw, which would have certainly won the game for the Cavaliers. Second, for some reason JR Smith had no idea that the game was tied when he got the rebound after that missed free throw, and ran out the clock, much to the displeasure of LeBron James, who was wide-open. The Cavaliers had the chance to steal Game One of the NBA finals, but they blew it with a couple inexcusable plays down the stretch, and I feel that they blew their once real chance to knock the Warriors off balance.
LeBron had 51 points in this game, breaking his previous playoff career-high of 49 points. He was incredible, and got more help than he normally does from his teammates. Now, the Warriors know that they can’t treat the Cavaliers like a second-class team, and maybe this game will prevent them from their normal post-win daze in Game Two. This game came down to the wire, was an incredibly exciting game, and the Warriors came out with a win.
It might not have been pretty, but a win’s a win.
Game Two of the 2018 NBA Finals will take place on Sunday, June 3, in Oakland at 5 p.m. on ABC.