NBA AM: Let’s Not Overreact to Game 1

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We’ve seen this story far too many times before. It happens each year in the playoffs that a team is prematurely crowned a winner, and it often happens entirely too early in the series.

It’s something that isn’t even exclusive to the NBA. Remember the Super Bowl?

After the Chicago Bulls quickly took a 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics not that long ago, many were wondering if the Celtics should be taken as a legitimate No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Even the Toronto Raptors were in a 2-1 series hole at one point, too. Of course, we know both of those teams took care of business in their respective playoff series and advanced to the next round.

But each year, those watching these sporting events are too quick to offer up knee-jerk reactions based off of one game, one quarter or even one specific play. We’re all guilty of it at one point or another.

Granted, Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night had some ugly moments. Perhaps too many ugly moments for a playoff series that many were looking to save this year’s playoffs. In a postseason that has featured too many blowouts, untimely injuries and not enough exciting moments, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are supposed to save this year’s postseason.

While many may believe this series is headed toward another lopsided finish, haven’t we’ve seen this story before, too?

If you don’t remember, the Warriors kicked off last year’s Finals with a 15-point victory in a game that they led by as many as 20 points. As we heard maybe too many times this season, the Warriors eventually held a 3-1 series lead that they … well, you know how that one ended.

Of course, this year’s third annual meeting features different players on each side of the ball. It’s not the same two rosters that have played each other, but they both have most of their top players intact with the Warriors adding a former Most Valuable Player in Kevin Durant.

By adding Durant, many questioned just how much the Warriors could rely on a much thinner bench. To create cap space for Durant, the Warriors are now relying on several players on very team-friendly contracts. And by all accounts, the Warriors haven’t skipped a beat.

From the Cavaliers’ perspective, Game 1 of this year’s Finals effort looked eerily similar to last year’s losing effort. In last year’s Game 1, Cleveland’s starters combined for 79 of the team’s 89 total points. In this year’s game, their starting unit totaled 70 of the team’s 91 total points.

Despite trailing by as many as 20 points last year, the Cavaliers were able to make a comeback and eventually take the lead before falling down the stretch. It was clear this time around that they’d be able to make no such run.

Durant was unstoppable throughout much of Game 1 on Thursday night and often got anything he wanted on the court. He finished with 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Perhaps most discouraging for the Cavaliers was he shot 14-of-26 from the floor and had more than enough open lanes to the basket than they may have liked.

The Warriors executed a great strategy throughout the game of forcing the Cavaliers to guard each player on the court. In the past, the Cavaliers crowded the three-point line and forced the Warriors to beat them inside. But this time around, the Warriors let Durant handle the ball at times and surrounded him with shooters in the corners. Durant was afforded the opportunity to drive in if he had a lane or kick it out to the shooters for an open look.

Aiding the Warriors in Game 1 was a lackadaisical effort from the Cavaliers’ defensive unit. They looked lost at times on defense and gave up many easy looks for the Warriors. Too many times it seemed like a Cavaliers player argued a non-foul call with a referee rather than getting back on defense in time.

In addition to a suspect showing on defense, the Cavaliers committed 20 turnovers compared to the Warriors’ four turnovers. The Warriors are among the most dangerous teams in transition following a turnover and they made the Cavaliers pay throughout the game on multiple occasions.

Despite how badly the Cavaliers lost on Thursday night, most would point to the fact that it will only go down as one loss. They’ll now have two full days to game plan and develop other ways to slow down the Warriors’ high-octane offense.

As many on social media are currently writing the Cavaliers’ eulogy in these Finals, the Cavaliers have shown before that they can bounce back from a series deficit. It will usually take a Herculean effort by LeBron James to facilitate that comeback, but it could mean some exciting basketball to watch for fans.

By this point, that may just be what all fans want to see anyway.