If a picture is worth 51 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, then…
A game many expected to be a blowout Warriors win (the Cavs were a -10.5 underdog), LeBron James didLeBron James things, and Kevin Love put up 21 points on 1-for-7 shooting to have the game tied with seconds to go and George Hill on the free-throw line.
George Hill, an 81% free throw shooter. What would happen next is all anyone else will talk about this game, and rightly they should.
Kevin Durant, who has 6 inches and 20 pounds on the smaller JR Smith doesn’t go for the rebound as intensely as he should. He assumes, like everyone else, that Hill will make it, the Warriors will call a timeout and the last play of the game will be decided on the other end of the floor.
Instead, Smith reaches out on the front rimmed shot, grabs the rebound, and for a half second, the Cavs have options to win this game. With 4.7 seconds left on the clock, Smith can try and go straight up with the ball. He can pass out to an open LeBron on the right wing. He can call a timeout. He can sprint to anywhere else on the court and turnaround and shoot it. He could literally do anything else other than what he did, which was dribble to the three point line, past LeBron, farther and farther out, turn around and pass it to Hill in the corner for a shot with no time left that was ultimately blocked anyway.
The Cavs showed they could hang with the Warriors, and they did it by doing exactly what we expected they would need to do.
Love, Thompson and Nance combined for 29 of the Cavs 53 rebounds – 15 rebounds more than Golden State had. LeBron had his expected and not insignificant monster game with 51 points on an incredible 19-for-32 shooting. He was the best player on the planet once again, and he showed up when the Cavs needed him the most.
But a perfect game plan and a little luck from the Warriors (an 8-for-22 performance from Durant aside) couldn’t mitigate a mental error almost unseen in the championship series. This wasn’t nerves or just flat out missing a shot – this was a signal of not understanding time and possession within the game.
The Warriors played more ISO than they should have, but shot 51% from the floor and 36% from the three. To be within a possession of winning the game outright in regulation is everything the Cavs would have wanted. And they got it.
But JR Smith failed them (also let’s not forget that Hill could have put them ahead if he made his free throw). Game two will need LeBron to be otherworldly again, and for someone else to show up besides himself and Love (maybe Korver can score more than 3 points this time). It takes luck to stay healthy, to stay together for the four year run the Warriors are on. It also takes a little luck in any given game.
That game just happened to be Game one of the Finals.
A Note About Draymond Green
Draymond Green is a great NBA player. He’s also a polarizing player for many reasons. Did he cost the Warriors a title in ‘16 by hitting players in the groin one too many times? Yes, yes he did.
But he also was integral in recruiting Kevin Durant to the team. And for getting KD to show up for games this postseason.
But he also can’t hit the broad side of a barn door from the three, and he’s currently trying to steal the “complain after every call” belt from Chris Paul.
Even as a Golden State Fan, you can love Draymond Green, and you can also hate him at the same time.
As a fan of every other team, you just hate him.
Because he’s kind of a dick.
He’s openly mocking Kendrick Perkins, beloved Kendrick Perkins loved by all including his own teammate Kevin Durant. Why is he mocking Perk? For cheering. For cheering for his underdog team, in a suit, on the bench. It’s not just poor form on Draymond, but it has zero to do with what’s happening on the court at the moment.
Calling someone out by making fun of not only how they are acting but exaggerating how they look is the lowest form of cowardly bullying – and is by extension a way of saying, “I have no other avenue to degrade you, so I will resort to mocking your joy because of my own insecurities.”
He then, breaks an unwritten rule of basketball, that Durant has even said on a recent podcast with Bill Simmons the players don’t cross. You can talk all you want about a player on the court, his play, his life – anything to get a mental edge. But you don’t talk about the woman and children. You leave that out. There’s no place for that.
Yet Draymond does exactly that. He achieves his goal of getting Thompson thrown out of the game (possibly suspended for the next, but most likely not), but in the end was it worth it?
Dear Draymond, don’t be a dick. Sincerely, everyone else.