Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals ended in disappointment for the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James Herculean efforts of 51 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds are going to go down in history as one of the most incredible scoring performances ever witnessed in the Finals. It ranks 5th all-time, with only Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, and Michael Jordan, who appears twice on the list ahead of King James.
LeBron came out the gate with all the aggression of the lion that his nickname is often associated with. He was trying to show them that he is still the king beyond a shadow of their mortal doubt. However, one mighty king, a kingdom does not make. Kingdoms rely on tradition, they rely on their subjects, and they rely on good fortune in order to preserve over time.
If LeBron James is the kingdom, then everyone outside of Kevin Love should be regulated to basketball peasantry. It looked like Jordan Clarkson was auditioning for a role in the imaginary upcoming film “The Curious Case of Jordan Clarkson and His Horrible Shot Selection” In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye, “What’s going on?”
Clarkson shot horribly to the tune of 2-9 from the field, but that wasn’t the worse part. He’s a prime example of someone trying to channel the force of the Mamba mentality without being equipped to wield that mental weapon. Akin to “The Force” and the “metaclorients” (Shout out to Star Wars), Clarkson virtually imploded like the Death Star.
And for the love of Pete Rock, Clarkson, Just. Kept. SHOOTING! Still, the King guided his team through tumultuous times. However, this kingdom is going up against a superpower built to dominate for as long as they can, and it was clear that their efforts were to that end. But kingdoms need resources, and coach Tyronn Lue ain’t Merlin the Magician. He can’t “abra-cadabra” the Cavaliers out of stupidity. Either you have a high basketball I.Q. or you don’t.
Jordan Clarkson, last 6 games: 82 minutes, 0 assists, 14-49 FG (28.6%)
The end of the second quarter was an omen for the rest of the game. Seconds left in the half, J.R. Smith reaches out to try to steal an outlet pass at halfcourt as time expired. Bad decision. He misses and Curry hits a three as time expired. The Warriors were down by as much as 11 points in the first half but ended it tied up. It was only the first sickening bash of the battering ram against the feeble gates of House James.
Eventually, it became obvious that James was doing just too much pounding the rock late into the shot clock. Kevin Love proved to be a suitable complement to James early on. It’s also clear that Warriors PF Draymond Green simply cannot guard Love on the low block. Green finished with four personal fouls, several of which were drawn by Love. He would finish with 21 points and 13 rebounds, but they just didn’t go to him enough in the post.
Guard play has been the betraying element for the Cavs throughout the playoffs, and that plague raised its head yet again with the Clarkson’s calamitous shooting. I’m quite surprised at how poorly Clarkson has played throughout the playoffs, after appearing to be at least serviceable his entire stint in Los Angeles.
In comes veteran PG George Hill. Initially, it appeared as if he could provide better support in this war of attrition. But after playing steadily for a few minutes, had his proverbial horse shot right out from under him. With seconds left, the game tied at 107, Hill sank one free throw and missed another.
But out of nowhere, after making Jersey hoopsters look bad the entire game, Smith snatched a rebound with 4.7 seconds left. What did next is perhaps one of the most egregiously boneheaded plays I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Yes, greater still that Chris Webber’s famous “timeout” in the 1993 NCAA Championship game versus UNC.
Instead of deciding to call a timeout or immediately look to score in some controlled manner, he dribbles to the top of the key, allowing time to expire. LeBron’s frustration was so evident, JR Smith is lucky there’s not a guillotine in the locker room. Sheesh.
JR Smith, oh no baby what is you doing?” – Everyone #NBAFinals https://t.co/UY6g3c3t52
There’s a lot of people who will be focusing on the “the charge” as the prime reason for the Cavs failure. That charge, which was reversed to a block, happened with 30 seconds left. If his castmates had even the least bit of testicular fortitude then the game would’ve been over. They had plenty of opportunities. The emotionally exasperated and deflated Cleveland Cavaliers would fall to the Golden State Warriors in overtime by the score of 124 to 114.
Now, what’s LeBron supposed to do? Go out and score 60? Like King Arthur, Daenerys Stormborn, and other fabled royal chieftains, even the mightiest need a great deal of luck to succeed. Their collective providence is a commonality, but the stars say it’s all bad from here on out for the Cavaliers. There’s no way LeBron can sustain enough energy to carry this team to a victory. I’d love to be proven wrong. I like witnessing history. But, whoa, what a wasted display of brilliance.