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LeBron and the Cavs come up short in Game 1 of the NBA Finals [June 4, 2015]

Warriors beat Cavs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Some thoughts and reaction on Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals.

LeBron James – Too many isolation plays and post ups. This doesn’t mean posting up LeBron is wrong or uncalled for. On the contrary, we will need LeBron to dominant in the post, get to the free throw line, and kick the ball out to open shooters. The way the game 1 went down, however, simply can’t occur.

The reason it can’t occur again is because James got WORE DOWN pretty badly. You cannot put all of the responsibility on his shoulders. Well, you can, like they tried in Game 1, but it’s not sustainable. By the end of the game, LeBron looked like he had 100 pound weights on each of his legs. Valiant effort but very worn down. Teammates were not cutting to the hoop. There was very little ball movement. LeBron was pounding the ball too much. How can you expect teammates to deliver in crunch time if they haven’t touched the ball in a while and aren’t in the rhythm of the game? Sure, that’s their job (i.e. someone like James Jones who is always ready to shoot the three ball even after coming in “cold” off the bench) but by and large, force feeding the ball to LeBron James in the post can’t be the game plan. No one else is involved or in rhythm, and you end up with an exhausted LeBron and a bunch of teammates watching.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This wasn’t supposed to be a flashback to the 2007 finals or any of the other Cavs teams that couldn’t make it over “the hump.” With that being said, this LeBron is much different than the first installment of LeBron on the Cavs; he is a much better shooter and leader. Yet in still, it was shocking to see that much isolation for the King, who took 38 field goals. Looking at the whole big picture, things would be MUCH DIFFERENT with a healthy Kyrie and Kevin Love. Because of the injuries to both Uncle Drew and Love, more of the responsibility certainly does fall on James. Can he do it all? Potentially yes, and he may actually get stronger in the next couple of games. The week off before the finals actually made both teams a little fatigued at the end because they hadn’t had an actual game, let alone an NBA Finals game in quite a while. Everyone will most likely get their sea legs back soon.

Kyrie Irving – Wow. What heart and determination. Any questions about Kyrie Irving’s character can be permanently removed from your thought process. It looked to me like he was basically playing at around 60 to 70% healthy. He was able to get to his spots, but not in his usual quick manner. It was a tad methodical but he was still able to get the job done using a mixture of his body position (warding off defenders or cutting them off) and his amazing ball handling ability. His leg still seemed a little bit gimpy, and to those that have watched Kyrie since joining the Cavs, you could see that the “super burst” he possesses when healthy was not there. Even on his three point attempts, you could see more of a “set shot.” Kyrie was basically wearing his heart on his sleeve, and it’s quite the big heart. Like the NFL, the NBA is a game of inches, and Kyrie got just enough of the ball when he blocked Steph Curry’s layup attempt at the end of the game. He also got just enough of an opening when he finished with his left hand early in the game. This was after a steal when he basically toyed with Draymond Green, who couldn’t stick with the quick movements of Kyrie. It is just so heartbreaking and disappointing that this man is not healthy for the finals. Can you imagine a healthy Kyrie in these finals? It gives Cleveland so much more confidence and rhythm on offense. The fact that he is not healthy is like a cruel joke; sure it’s next man up, but each person will need a herculean effort. It just makes it that much harder and bears too much responsibility on James, simultaneously making it that much easier for the Golden State Warriors. They aren’t getting us at full strength.

Stephen Curry – Pretty typical game for Curry. I wasn’t a fan when he “struck a pose” near the end of the game in a display of cockiness, basically mocking the Cavs and reiterating how easy it is for him. Sure, he’s a great dribbler, but we can’t have him striking the same cocky poses that he did during the REGULAR season. We have got to make it tougher for him. This is the NBA Finals. Easier said than done, of course, but someone needs to be permanently attached to Curry, like “stink on shit.” We need to make it very tough for him. No more open spaces and room to work. He needs to work for everything. Again, easier said than done, with experts and past players basically concluding that there has never been a PG like this; not this mixture of dribbling AND shooting talents; an unprecedented player.

I also have to give the Golden State Warriors credit. Their home crowd was taken out of the game in the 1st quarter when the Cavs pushed the lead to 13 points. The Cavs were dominating on the boards. The Warriors never gave up, had a better rebounding effort in the 2nd quarter, and “chipped away” at the lead like all great NBA teams do. Although it pains me to say it, the Warriors basically have a deeper bench which gives them the upper hand in the series. Iguodala has been a starter his WHOLE CAREER up till now, and Speights is an extremely confident offensive player. The Cavs only played 8 players in Game 1. The Warriors played 10 players. That is a huge difference for Golden State because besides the fact that you have your reserve players performing well, your starters have the opportunity to rest. LeBron James played 45 minutes and Tristan Thompson played 47 minutes! Curry played 42 minutes and Klay Thompson played 38 minutes.

This goes back to the Cavs needing a herculean effort from everyone, including Tristan and LeBron. There’s simply no way around it. With Love and Varejão out, it puts a lot of responsibility on Tristan. I think that may actually be okay because most of Tristan’s effort and energy is focused on defense and rebounding. He knows he is one the best in the league at rebounding and is relentless. Mosgov did play a good game, and should NOT have been called for a traveling violation late in the game. He came to a jump stop and used his pivot foot; somehow he was called for traveling and Van Gundy and Marc Jackson both stated it was a legal move.

Why are we back at this place? Why is everything up to LeBron James? Why do other players stand and watch? Unfortunately, this go around isn’t based on a lack of talent from other players. This time, it is due to injuries to Love and Kyrie. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert need to have outstanding performances in Game 2. Tristan and LeBron will continue to do what they do; outwork you and try to will their team to victory. Make no mistake about it; Tristan Thompson and LeBron James are the workhorses on this Cleveland Cavalier team. How far can they take us?

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