Last night the NBA Finals lived up to the hype. The Warriors ended up forcing overtime & took a 1-0 series lead. So what we Learned from Game 1 and how we can use that for our NBA picks?
The 2015 Injury Playoffs
Kyrie Irving has never been the epitome of health throughout his career, but after eight days off it looked like his ailments were behind him. He was sharp on both ends of the court for the entirety of Game 1, and it looked like he was finally healthy and ready to be the number two scoring option the Cavs have been starved for ever since he originally hurt his foot/knee earlier in the playoffs. However, that was until late in overtime when he went down, limped off the court, and was not heard from again. The Warriors went on to blank the Cavaliers in overtime with the exception of one Lebron James garbage time layup in the final seconds of overtime.
We don’t yet know the extent of Irving’s injury, but needless to say it didn’t look good. He even needed help to getting from the podium of the postgame press conference back to the locker room after the game. If Irving can’t go in Game 2 or beyond, this series is over, and it will cap off a playoffs that was filled with injury and suspension for the Cavaliers. Luckily for the Cavs is they have today, tomorrow and part of Sunday to somehow get him back on the court, but if something in that knee is structurally damaged, the likelihood of him pulling a Willis Reed is slim.
LeBron James Is Still The Best Player In The World, But It Wasn’t Enough
If only that was still a debate, but somehow 34% of “fans” still think a 50 year-old Michael Jordan can beat James in one-on-one. LeBron dropped 44 points in a losing effort on Thursday, and even though he wasn’t facilitating like we have become accustomed to seeing in these playoffs, he really couldn’t. Even with Irving healthy in regulation, the Warriors left Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala (I thought it would be Draymond Green) on an island against James as I predicted, and made sure that no one else killed them. The Warriors bench thoroughly outplayed the Cavs’ bench, and JR Smith was the only Cavalier to score that wasn’t a starter.
Iguodala also looked like he stepped into a time machine before the game and his 2008-self emerged. Not only did he add some much-needed scoring punch off the bench for the Dubs with 15 points, but he also was instrumental in slowing down LeBron when it mattered most. As much as I like Barnes as a two-way player in the NBA, he was no match for James last night. However when Kerr finally made the switch to Iguodala permanent late in the 4th quarter, everything changed. Lebron was still 4-8 in the 4th, but Iggy only defended him in the final few minutes, where James was 2-5 in the final five minutes of regulation, and only 1-4 in overtime thanks to a last second layup that meant nothing.
If Iggy can continue his flashback performance for the rest of this series on both ends, he won’t stop LeBron, but he will defend him well enough to make this a quick series for the league’s best regular season team. The Dubs bench finished the game outscoring the Cavs bench 34-9, and all five bench players for Golden State finished the game in the positive in plus/minus. We all wait with baited breath to hear about Irving, and for this series and the NBA’s sake, I hope he can give it a go in Game 2 on Sunday. However if he can’t, this series may be over after just one game.