LeBron James pleads with JR Smith to pass the ball in the final seconds of the critical game 1 debacle, that cost the Cavs the victory in game 1 they may never recover from.
The Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers return to Quicken Loans Arena this week for games 3 and 4 of the NBA Finals where its’ mental and mettle will be tested with their title hopes at stake.
This will be no time to reflect on the horrendous officiating that has cast a shadow over this series that Golden State leads 2 games to zip, nor will there be moments to debate who was to blame for the overtime defeat in game 1 that brought us to this point.
LeBron James erupted for 51 points 8 rebounds and 8 assist in game 1, but watched his brilliant performance melt away with a missed George Hill free throw in the final seconds and a JR Smith rebound and dribble out that cost the Cavs the chance for a victory.
Smith rebounded a Hill miss at the stripe, but inexplicably dribbled away from traffic allowing time in regulation to expire with the game tied.
Initially he told LeBron he thought the Cavs had the lead, but later recanting saying;
"I just thought we were going to call a timeout. Because I got the rebound, I'm pretty sure I couldn't shoot it over KD," Smith said of Kevin Durant. "If I thought we were ahead, I would have just held on to the ball so they could foul me. Clearly that wasn't the case."
None of it made absolutely any sense.
"He thought it was over. He thought we were up one," coach Tyronn Lue said.
Thus after playing a brilliant game and the Warriors skipping a beat, the Cavs saw that masterpiece splattered by JR’s graffiti and eventually lost 124-114 in overtime.
Those game 1 post mental syndromes would follow the Cavs and JR Smith into game 2, where the Cavaliers complained throughout at the officiating and then succumbed under the perfect offensive outputs from JaVale McGee who went 6 for 6 from the field and Shaun Livingston who went 5 for 5 in a 122-103 blowout.
Steph Curry added 33 points on 9 of 17 from three-point range, Klay Thompson 20 and Kevin Durant a most efficient 26 on 10 of 14 shooting to lead the Warriors charge, but this game was won by McGee and Livingston.
So, one might ask, while all of the critics continue to cast the Cavs away, what must Cleveland do to get back into the series, especially with Andre Iguodala set to return.
It’s quite simple. The Cavs need to make some shots. Kevin Love 7-18 and JR Smith 2-9 in game 2 is not going to get it done, and the performances of Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Korver or lack thereof is a serious cause for concern.
Korver more so than Clarkson, because if the Cavs are going to have any shot he will have to find a way to get open and finish shots.
This marks the 34th time that a team has taken a 2-0 series lead in the NBA Finals.
Teams that win the first two games of the NBA Finals have a 29-4 series record (.879).
The most recent comeback from a 2-0 series deficit to win the NBA Finals was Cleveland over Golden State in 2016. That year, the Cavaliers became the first team ever to rally from a 3-1 series deficit to win the Finals.
You can’t hope that that sort of miracle again.