Here is a link to my Friday column about the Warriors’ resourceful win in Game 1. The full text runs below:
OAKLAND — If you missed Thursday night’s Warriors-Cavaliers game, where were you? I mean what were you doing? That was playoff basketball. As it’s meant to be. As the basketball gods decreed it.
None of that easy stuff we saw against the first three teams the Warriors ran out of the postseason. Warriors-Cavs was tension and drama on every possession. Every shot the Cavs and Warriors made was a victory of guts and persistence and skill. And neither team cried uncle. Both wanted it so bad. Just basketball at its best. Basketball you never see until the NBA Finals. And when you see it, it takes your breath away.
Of course the Warriors won — final score 108-100. Of course, they buried the Cavs in overtime. The Warriors are a complete team, a talented team — more than the rest of the league understands. The Cavs, God love them, are LeBron James and the Cavs. They’re like a singing group, one great lead singer and guys you never heard of harmonizing and crooning in the background. Call them LeBron and the Cavs.
The Cavs have three-and-a-half players. Kyrie Irving definitely is one player, although he got hurt near the end, got hurt with no contact. He fell down and writhed and limped off the court. Who knows if he can play in Game 2? If not, the Cavs are without their main backup singer.
So, OK, let’s count Irving as one player for the time being. Center Timofey Mozgoz counts as half a player. He does center-like things and he did score 16 points. Although you wouldn’t call him a complete stiff, he’s definitely a semi-stiff. No hands and no moves.
If you’re keeping count that’s one-and-a-half players so far for the Cavs. Who are the next two players to make up Cleveland’s three and a half? That’s easy. It’s James. I should say they are James. He counts as two players. He counts as two in any game in any era on any team and against any team. He scored 44 points. But he worked so hard to score those points you thought he needed a gurney by the end. In overtime he was pooped. The entire Cavs’ roster was pooped. Cleveland coach David Blatt said so.
How could they not be pooped? Their bench was an absolute joke. So it was James vs. the Warriors, abetted to a certain extent by one-and-a-half other players. By the conclusion of this series, James will need a hospital stay — you can see him with tubes in his arms and flowers and chocolates in the room.
“I felt we came out of the regulation flat and without the kind of energy we displayed throughout the game,” Blatt said flatly. “Once they got a basket or two, we kind of dropped.”
Almost dropped dead.
The Warriors started the game miserably. Something we’ve seen before. It’s like the starter shoots off the gun and the Warriors are looking the other way while the opponent sprints down the track. “I just felt like the first quarter we looked nervous,” Steve Kerr said. Klay Thompson said so, too. The Warriors are young. They were nervous — for a while.
When they fell behind by 14, Kerr called them together. Let’s let Thompson narrate. “We’ve done a great job all year not panicking,” he said. “We know how talented our roster is. We’ve been down 20, 25 and we still come back and win. We’re never out of it. Steve told us, ‘It’s going to be a long game.’ And he was right. We would have plenty of opportunities to get back in it. We went down 14 and we came to the huddle and we understood, ‘We’ve just got to take it one possession at a time.’”
The Warriors seemed to figure out the Cavaliers in the second quarter, erased the big Cleveland lead. And you thought, “Here they go. Game over. Like they always do.”
Funny thing, Cleveland hung tough and led at the half by three. It was a ballgame when it wasn’t supposed to be a ballgame. When it comes down to it, Cleveland doesn’t care the Warriors won 67 regular-season games and Stephen Curry is the MVP and as cute as a bug’s ear and so is his daughter, Riley. The Cavs are a serious team and they are a proud team. And when it was over, Blatt said, “On an away floor we were in a position to win that game.” And he was right.
Blatt is a worldly man who has coached in Europe and Israel — he holds dual American and Israeli citizenship. He knew tens of thousands of Israelis stayed up through the middle of the night to watch the game and root for the Cavs. “I’m sorry,” he told them.
The Warriors won in overtime because they are a team and the Cavs are not. A group of talented eager mortals can defeat Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders. James is Atlas.
Andre Iguodala guarded him more than other Warriors. Kerr said Iguodala did a great job. That’s a relative statement. No one does a great job on James. Iguodala did as well as anyone could do, which is saying something. If Iguodala was any worse, James might have scored 100.
We learned so much about these teams from finally seeing them on the floor together. We learned the Cavs will compete. We learned plot twists and storylines abound. Like Irving’s status. Will he be a player? Can James continue to be Atlas or will he drop the world from sheer fatigue. Can Curry score more than 26? It is a big number but small for him. If he gets off, the Cavs are in big trouble.
They’re probably in trouble, anyway. Way too limited. No plot twist here. No reason to believe LeBron and the Cavs can sing their way to the 2015 championship.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn firstname.lastname@example.org.