The Warriors entered Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals as the overwhelming favorites not only in that contest but the series as well. In fact, according to Vegas odds, the series was more likely to end in a Golden State sweep than a Cleveland victory.
However, LeBron James put the Cavs on his back and nearly carried them across the finish line on Thursday night. King James tallied 51 points (on 19-of-32 shooting), three triples, eight rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one block in 48 minutes. Yet, thanks in large part to one of the more unforgettable endings in NBA Finals history, Cleveland fell short.
Follow me on Twitter: @TommyBeer
Before looking ahead to Game 2, here is a recap of the fallout from the fracas at the end of Game 1.
* No Suspensions
In the final few seconds of overtime, with the Warriors well out in front and the game decided, Shaun Livingston attempted a jumper right before the shot clock expired to avoid a team turnover. Tristan Thompson took exception and fouled Livingston. He was immediately hit with a Flagrant 2 and ejected, although it likely wasn't warranted. Nonetheless, that resulted in a dustup in which Thompson and Draymond Green got into an altercation. Thompson pushed the basketball into Green’s face, and it appeared his hand made contact as well. However, on Friday it was announced that Thompson would not receive a suspension.
Editor's Note: Fantasy Baseball season is here! Compete in a live fantasy baseball snake draft right now! Drafts take as little as 2 minutes to complete and last just one night. For a limited time, DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers a FREE entry into a real money draft and a Money-Back Guarantee up to $100! Here's the link
Thursday night and into Friday morning, Cavs fans were also worried that Kevin Love might get suspended for Game 2. Love, who was not in the game at the time, was on the floor during the Thompson-Green altercation, and, according to the letter of the law, could have been punished. Fortunately, the NBA league office used common sense and did not suspend Love.
(Coach Tyronn Lue was not fined or in any way punished for his rant against the refs following Game 1. Lue was critical of the officiating, saying his team was "robbed," after the reversal of a charge call on Kevin Durant in the final minute of the fourth quarter.)
Thus, the Cavs will have their full complement of players available for a crucial Game 2, which tips off on Sunday night at 8:00 pm EST on ABC.
The Warriors don’t have that same luxury.
* Injury Report:
Coach Steve Kerr said Andre Iguodala (left lateral leg contusion/bone bruise) is day-to-day and is still doubtful for Game 2. Kerr did state that Iguodala was improving, but it appears he will miss his sixth straight game. Game 3 is not until Wednesday night, so resting Iggy on Sunday would give him three extra full days of rest. If the Warriors had dropped Game 1, then they might have felt a bit more pressure to rush him back into the lineup. With a game in hand, they can err on the side of caution.
Klay Thompson injured his ankle in the first quarter of Game 1 when J.R. Smith slipped and rolled into his leg. Fortunately, Klay was able to return to the contest and finished with 24 points, three rebounds and one assist in 45 minutes. Because he was able to handle such a heavy workload on Thursday, it was assumed he’d be good to go for Game 2, but that is now in question. Thompson is dealing with a high left ankle sprain and significant bruising. “It’s not good, but I’m going to do what I can to get out there,” said Klay when asked about the injury on Saturday afternoon. The X-rays came back negative and he is receiving around-the-clock treatment, but there is no guarantee that he’ll be able to suit up. Thompson appears to be trending towards a game-time decision. Even if Klay is cleared to start, he will be playing at far less than 100 percent.
Patrick McCaw (lumbar spine recovery) is listed as probable for Sunday. McCaw wasn’t on the injury report for Game 1, so he may have had a slight setback. Either way, he is on track to play. This is important, as McCaw would see a significant uptick in minutes if Klay Thompson is ruled out. Shaun Livingston and Nick Young would all soak up extra playing time in that scenario.
LeBron James got poked in the eye by Draymond Green in Game 1 and admitted he had to play through blurry vision for the rest of the contest. It’s still an issue heading into Game 2. "It doesn't look better, but the docs told me it's better," James said. "It's just going through a stage right now of recovering. ... I'm taking my medication that I've been given by the doctors. My eye drops and my antibiotic to help me with the recovery as fast as possible. But it's an eye. I mean, it's going to recover as fast as it can on its own. There is nothing you can do. I can't ice it or anything like that." We’ll see if LeBron is limited in any way on Sunday night.
* Game 2 Adjustments:
Despite being close enough to taste victory on Thursday, the Cavs still find themselves in a 0-1 hole. What can they do to knock off the Warriors this time around? As ESPN’s Zach Lowe pointed out in his column, it is crucial that the Cavs knock down their 3-pointers.
Cleveland was just 6-for-20 on wide-open treys in Game 1. Although LeBron dished out eight assists, his teammates were just 3-for-17 from behind-the-arc off his passes. That number should rise going forward. It will have to for the Cavaliers to have a chance, as they can not rely on LeBron recording 50-point triple-doubles on a nightly basis.
Just how vital is the 3-ball to Cleveland’s success in 2017-18? Consider this: The Cavs are 40-3 this season (including the playoffs) when they shoot above 39 percent from 3-point territory.
The Cavs are 6-25 this season (including the playoffs) when they shoot below 33 percent from 3-point territory.
Cleveland was 10-for-37 (27.0%) from downtown in Game 1.
One lineup change the Cavs may want to consider is inserting Rodney Hood back into the rotation. Hood has struggled mightily for Cleveland in limited minutes this postseason, but he has proven record as a sharpshooter who can get hot. Before Utah traded him in February, he was shooting a career-high 38.9 percent from downtown for the Jazz. Hood hasn’t done much to engender much optimism in Cleveland, but neither has Jordan Clarkson, who was 2-for-9 from the floor in Game 1. Clarkson is shooting a frigid 30.3 percent from the floor, including 23.9 percent from 3-point range, this postseason. He also has more turnovers than assists over his last 17 postseason games. And we know the Cavs are not overly fond of J.R. Smith at the moment. If we’re looking for a wildcard on Sunday night, could Hood step in and step up?
Another stat that could help swing Game 2 is the Warriors turnover rate. The Dubs were remarkably efficient on Thursday night, shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and 95 percent from the free-throw stripe while only committing seven turnovers. The Warriors are undefeated this season when they turn the ball over fewer than ten times. In fact, they have never lost a playoff game under Steve Kerr when committing less than ten turnovers.
It’s obviously a tall order for Cleveland, but with the best player on the planet on their team, they always have a fighting chance. Furthermore, if Klay Thompson is sidelined, or even limited, that would decrease Golden State’s advantage heading into Sunday night. Let’s hope Game 2 is as entertaining and engrossing as Game 1.