A sizable contingent of basketball fans have complained in recent days that a fourth straight year of the Warriors and Cavs in the NBA Finals is boring. Thursday night's game one proved that they're morons.
The game was a tense back-and-forth, with big shots, buzzer beaters and a wild final minute. LeBron James put up a gargantuan stat line, with 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Kevin Love, in his first game back from a concussion, went for 21 points and 13 boards. The Warriors, meanwhile, showed that four All-Stars are better than two as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all scored more than 24 points and Draymond Green was an assist away from a triple double.
But what really made this game memorable is the wild final minute. It began with a controversial call by the refs, who initially called this a charge on Kevin Durant but upon review, changed it to a block on LeBron.
KD hit the free throws, tying the game, but LeBron easily put the Cavs back up by two. After Curry put the Warriors back up one with an old-fashioned three pointer, George Hill was fouled and went to the free throw line with a chance to put the Cavs back up as the clock ticked down. He hit the first free throw to tie the game, and then things got nuts.
After Hill missed the second free throw, J.R. Smith grabbed the rebound. Instead of trying to hoist up a game winner or, better yet, get the ball in LeBron's hands, Smith ran around as if the Cavs had the lead. If you read his lips in the video below, you can see him saying, "I thought we were ahead."
They were not ahead and the game went to overtime. After the game, Smith claimed that he actually knew the score and was trying to bring the ball out for another shot. "I was trying to get enough to bring it out to get a shot off. I knew we were tied; I thought we were going to call timeout," he said.
But his coach blew up his spot. "He thought it was over," Ty Lue said after the game. "He thought we were up one."
LeBron was asked about Smith's "state of mind" during the play after the game and quickly got annoyed.
It's worth noting that Smith's boneheaded error didn't lose the game for the Cavs. They still had an overtime to play. Not that it mattered. The Warriors ran away with the game in the extra five minutes.
Still, the fun wasn't over! With about four seconds on the clock, Shaun Livingston took a jumper to avoid a shot-clock violation. Tristan Thompson took issue with that—the game was effectively over with the Warriors up eight—and tried to foul him on the shot. So Thompson was ejected, which led Draymond Green to taunt him, which led to this:
“I contested a shot that shouldn’t have been taken,” Thompson said after the game. “I mean, it’s like the unspoken rule in the NBA: If you’re up by 10 or 11 with about 20 seconds left, you don’t take that shot. I made the contest and next thing I know I was being kicked out for making a contest that we learn in training camp. I don’t know why I got thrown out.”
Game two is Sunday night at 8. Should be fun.