Experts said that the Cleveland Cavaliers needed to play perfect basketball for 48 minutes to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. The Cavs were 4.7 seconds away from doing that.
But George Hill missed a free throw and J.R. Smith committed a mental error in Cleveland’s last play of the fourth quarter. The game went to an extra period and the Warriors pulled away in a flash. Game, set, and match for Golden State in Game 1.
It only takes one mistake for the Golden State Warriors to pounce on you. The Cavs made two in the final 4.7 seconds and they paid dearly for it, losing Game 1 124-114 in overtime. So the Cavs get another crack at stealing home-court advantage in Game 2, but will they finish the job this time around?
Check out the odds, our preview and pick for Game 2 of the 2018 NBA Finals:
The rise of the Golden State Warriors has been attributed to the Splash Brothers. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have become the most feared back court in the league because of their ability to shoot the three-point basket. When Curry and Thompson splash together, the Dubs are almost unbeatable. That has been proven in the last four NBA seasons.
But after Steph Curry started the playoffs on the injured list, we haven’t really seen these two explode together in a single game. It’s been one or the other getting hot in the playoffs. In fact, prior to Game 1, there has only been one game where both of them hit at least four three-pointers each and that was in Game 6 against the Rockets when Thompson made 9 triples and Curry 5. They each had five three-pointers in Game 1 and shot a combined 10-21 0r 47.6% from behind the three-point arc.
In the last three games ( including Game 1 ) for Golden State, the Splash Brothers have combined to shoot 34-71 from the three-point area. Now 47.88% from the three-point area is an outstanding shooting mark. But it’s the 34 three-pointers in three games that’s scary because the defenses are supposed to be tighter in the playoffs. But these are the Splash Brother and that’s what they do. The Cavs have to put the clamps on the Splash Brothers’ three-point shooting.
Kevin Durant scored 26 points in Game 1 but he didn’t really have a good night for the defending champions. Apart from shooting 9-10 from the free throw line, Durant struggled all night, shooting just 8-22 from the floor and 1-7 from behind the three-point line and yet the Warriors still won the game.
Durant is averaging 47.2% from the floor and 31.7% from behind the three-point line during the playoffs and shot 51.6% from the field plus 41.9% from the rainbow area during the regular season. So Game 1 Kevin Durant wasn’t the one whom the Cavs saw during the 2017 NBA Finals.
Excluding Game 1, there were only two games out of 17 where KD has shot the ball below 40% from the floor and these were Games 4 and 5 against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State lost both games. To win Game 1 with Durant shooting 36.4% from the floor was good for the Warriors and bad news for the Cavs because KD doesn’t have too many off nights.
Perhaps it’s about time to stop asking if LeBron James can keep up his incredible pace in the 2018 playoffs or if he will have enough gas left in his tank to finish the job for the Cavs. That’s because, despite his mileage in the current postseason, he scored 51 points on 19-32 shooting in Game 1.
It was only the sixth 50 point game in the NBA Finals and the first ever with 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Sure, he was held to just two points without a field goal in the overtime period, but you won’t prevent LeBron James from having another monster night in Game 2. He’s just that good and he’s just that good in preserving his body that he’s like a Cyborg.
But the thing here is that even if LeBron James dropped a historic night on the Warriors, his team could not get the victory. In fact, James became the first player in Finals history to score at least 50 points and lose that particular game. It’s not his fault and great as he is, it’s beyond his powers. Cleveland needs its other guys to step up for LeBron James. They can’t let him play hero ball against a juggernaut like Golden State.
On Cleveland’s side, it’s hard to think where the Cavs can find more firepower. In James’ other title teams, he had the luxury of having Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving as the second scoring option. This year, he has Kevin Love but Love was the third option when the Cavs beat the Dubs in 2016 much like Chris Bosh was the third option in Miami. Now that Love is promoted to being the second option, the Cavs don’t have a consistent third option.
To compensate for that, Cleveland has gotten good games from different players. In Game 1, J.R. Smith was the third leading scorer with 10 points and Larry Nance Jr. the next with 9 points. Jeff Green and George Hill each had 7. But Kyle Korver only had three points on 3 attempts. For the Cavs to have a shot at beating the Dubs, Korver must be involved in the offense too.
After averaging 14.5 points per game against the Raptors and 11 points per game in the first four games of the Celtics series, Korver has scored only 4.75 points per game while shooting 28.5% from the floor in the last four games including Game 1. If the Cavs want to make a series out of this match-up, Korver has to be that third option for them.
Despite what the final score says, the Warriors offense didn’t even hit top speed in Game 1. The Dubs failed to score at least 30 points in a single quarter on Thursday night, going 29,27,28 and 23 against the Cavs. They had a total of nine 30 point quarter against the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. And yet they won. That’s not good for the Cavs.
Meanwhile, LeBron James threw the entire arsenal at the Warriors. This was probably his best individual effort against the Dubs in four Finals meetings yet he still came up short. It’s hard to imagine LeBron topping his Game 1 stat line. If the Warriors can withstand an otherworldly performance by King James, what can they not overcome?
Cleveland’s game plan should be the same as Game 1 and that is to keep the game close and put themselves in a position to steal a win in the endgame. Although it’s not advisable, the Cavs can afford to trail 0-2 for as long as they keep winning at home. If they hold serve, they can go all-out in Game 7. Isn’t this what they did against Boston in the previous round?
The oddsmakers don’t see a close series and we agree. Cleveland will have its moments like it did in Game 1 but one never beats five in basketball. You can give LeBron James the Finals MVP in a losing effort. But as far as winning Game 2 and the title, it’s going to be a rout in favor of the Warriors.
We’re picking the Warriors to jump on the Cavs early and win by double digits again. The Dubs are 9-1 SU at home in the current postseason. As for the spread, the Warriors failed to cover for the 7th time in the last 10 games as double-digit favorites. But we know they were just one three-pointer away from doing that. With KD expected to bounce back after a poor shooting game and LeBron not expected to score 51 again in Game 2, we’re also picking the Warriors to cover the 12.5 spread this time around.
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