Last night’s game was like a great action movie: It was exciting, it was suspenseful, and it had a happy ending.
After a long week of blather and hype, the teams finally started playing basketball at around 6:12 PM. Or at least the Cavs did. The Warriors took a while to get their machine in gear; maybe they were rusty, maybe they were nervous about being on the big stage for the first time, or maybe it was just another of the slow starts that have been their only weakness this season. They spotted Cleveland 10 points before finally waking up in the 2nd quarter.
And they never really did get it going completely, never became the overwhelming tsunami that they’re capable of being. They had to scratch and scrape for everything, partly because the Cavs were playing smart, disciplined defense. LeBron James, meanwhile, was being the Platonic ideal of LeBron James.
Let me say this about LeBron: He gets pretty much every call — like the one where a swinging elbow to Andre Iguodala’s midsection somehow turned into a foul on Andre — and complains about the ones he doesn’t get. But the man can play. Every time the Cavs needed a bucket to stay in the game, there he was. And it’s not like the Warriors didn’t know it was coming; there was just nothing they could do about it. When LeBron’s hitting his outside shot there’s not much that can be done.
Fortunately the Warriors had Andre Iguodala. Andre had a bit of an up-and-down season, and some people were saying he was overpaid and unproductive. I was not one of them, and neither was Steve Kerr, for that matter; we know that Andre is one of those guys whose contributions are often hard to quantify, from subtle defensive brilliance to artful facilitation on the offensive end. So it was nice to see him have a game that no one could miss the brilliance of, scoring 15 crucial points, including two definitive dunks and a 3-pointer that he made with only one shoe on. He also had a couple of nice steals and contributed to the Warriors’ defense on LeBron.
It’s hard to say that they did a good job on LeBron when he scored 44 points, but I think that’s actually the case. They constantly changed defenders, using Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Iguodala to try to keep LeBron guessing. And the result was…well…44 points, but LBJ may have run out of gas late in the game, missing a potential game-winner at the end of regulation and accomplishing nothing in the overtime.
Game 1 also featured the return of Mo Speights, who gave the team a big boost by coming in when the offense was struggling and scoring 8 points in 9 minutes. The Splash Brothers scored only a humdrum 47 in the game, with Klay Thompson enduring another off shooting night. And Playoff Barnes pitched in with a couple of big threes, including one in overtime that was the last nail in the coffin.
We were watching with a good-sized crowd at the Arcata Theater Lounge, and in its own small way it was not unlike being at Oracle Arena. People were shouting and clapping, chanting “Warriors” and “Defense” — which is kind of a funny thing to do almost 300 miles from where the game is being played, but maybe it helped, who knows. In any case it was, as an old W’s marketing slogan used to say, a Great Time Out — I’ll take three more just like it, please.