BY: Jason M. Sanin
With 67 wins in the regular season and only two losses in the postseason, basketball betting experts tabbed the Golden State Warriors as the favorites to win the NBA Finals. And while they were heavily tested by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the final best of seven series of 2015, the Cavaliers faltered in overtime and allowed the Warriors to take a one game to zero series advantage with a 108-100 win.
The game started with a barrage by Cleveland, who went up by double digits in the first quarter behind a strong start from LeBron James. Perhaps more important than their offensive start, though, was the way the Cavaliers defended Stephen Curry in the early going. David Blatt’s squad didn’t allow Curry room to get quality shots off in the first 12 minutes of the game, which threw off the entirety of Golden State’s offense during that time period.
Curry did get things going as the game went along, but he was largely outdueled by LeBron James, who scored 44 points in game. However, only two of those points from James came in overtime, while Curry scored several times for the victorious Warriors in the extra five minute period. But it wasn’t just James who fell silent in the latter stages of the game, as several other key pieces did the same.
J.R. Smith, who was praised for his ability to score during the earlier rounds of the playoffs for Cleveland, didn’t score at all in the second half and overtime after making a long three point shot to end the first half. As a whole, a James layup with just seconds remaining was the only made shot by the Cavaliers in overtime.
While the Cavaliers’ role players faltered late, Golden State’s made all of the necessary plays to win, with Andre Iguodala leading the charge. Iguodala made six of his eight shot attempts, including a couple of game changing dunks in transition, which excited the crowd and earned Golden State momentum that they carried into the end of the game. It’s this kind of depth that has made the Warriors a favorite of basketball tipsters all season long.
Perhaps more urgent than cold shooting for Cleveland was the apparent knee injury to Kyrie Irving suffered at the beginning of overtime. Irving, who has been fighting knee pain all postseason long, went down awkwardly after mishandling the ball on an attempted drive to the basket. Irving did a nice job defensively before getting hurt, most notably when he blocked Curry on a driving layup attempt with just seconds remaining in the game. He looked like he had his mobility back for the most part. If he is unable to return at the level he was playing for the majority of this game, Cleveland will be in deep trouble.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals will take place on Saturday, and is now a game that Cleveland must win to avoid going down by two games to none. They will need to find more scoring options than LeBron James to avoid falling behind by two games, but Irving’s injury will make that more difficult to do.