Kill the meme: For Warriors blowing the 3-1 lead was a long time ago
After an interminable break, we finally got to see Game One of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
No teams had ever played each other in three straight finals until Thursday night's game in Oakland.
The Warriors won the 2015 title over a decimated Cavaliers squad then followed their championship by ripping off an NBA record 73 wins and stomping back into the Finals looking to cement themselves as the greatest team ever.
After taking a 3-1 series lead the Warriors seemed poised to take their place amongst Jordan's Bulls, Magic's Laker's, and Russel's Celtics in the pantheon of all time teams.
What followed was one of the greatest collapses in Finals history as a Draymond Green nut tap, Andrew Bogut injury, and Steph Curry no-show combined to deflate the Warriors momentum and let Lebron James' Cavs storm back for three straight wins and the first Cleveland sports championship in generations.
The Warriors became a "blown 3-1 lead" meme and Lebron started getting taken seriously as the potential greatest basketball player of all time. Golden State responded to possibly the most devastating championship loss in history by signing four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant and cruising to 67 wins in 2017.
The Cavs lost their edge in the champagne soaked afterglow of their title run and fell to second in the Eastern Conference by the end of the season. The playoffs proved a formality as the Cavs and Warriors combined to lose one playoff game en route to their Finals rematch.
Now we get the pleasure of watching history unfold before our eyes as the greatest player of his generation battles possibly the greatest team of this decade in a rubber match for the ages.
From the opening tip, the much-maligned Cavaliers defense showed the inattentiveness and lack of cohesion that plagued them the entire regular season. Time and again, the Cavaliers allowed a Golden State big an open lane to the rim, an anathema for a team trying to slow down one of the greatest collections of offensive talent in NBA history.
Just as damning for the Cavaliers were their turnovers, piling up, 20 over the course of the game while the we-throw-behind-the-back-passes-cause-we-just-don't-care Warriors only had four.
That sort of disparity makes it very difficult for any team to win much less a Cavs team trying to beat the most successful regular season team ever on their home-court. King James had himself a night, nearly putting up a triple-double with 28 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists. Again, the Achilles heel in that monster stat line are his 8 turnovers.
Signing Kevin Durant forced the Warriors to jettison the bench mob they've enjoyed the past few seasons. Cleveland will have a real advantage there all series long. The difference in this game came down to the Cavaliers not containing Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry and compounding that defensive inefficiency with live ball turnovers which lead to transition opportunities for the Warriors.
We've been here before; Lebron James has lost the first game in the last six straight Finals and still managed to win three of them. In order to come back and steal Game 2, the Cavaliers are going to need to decrease their turnovers and increase their defensive intensity.
The Cavaliers won last season's Finals off of the back of their defense and bringing back the same core of players one would think they would have maintained that level of defensive capability
The Cavaliers are quietly playing the best offensive basketball in the history of the NBA playoffs scoring 120.7 points per 100 possessions before last night per basketball reference.
Another key for the Cavaliers is to return to form on offense and not be trapped into trying to run with the Warriors. The Cavs need to play their game by using the iso-heavy sets and ball control that won for them last year.
Lebron and Kyrie are two of the most unstoppable one-on-one players in the NBA so relying on them to control pace and produce offense is always a good idea.
The Warriors won Game One but they know that they did the same thing a year ago and still managed blow a 3-1 series lead. Golden State is going to want to end this series as quickly as possible before the Cavaliers can adjust to their level of competition.
The key for them possibly sweeping is to somehow reignite Klay Thompson's offense.
Lebron James is an all-time great player, quite possibly the GOAT, and should never be counted out of any series especially after only one game. I'm still counting his team out the rest of the way.
This Warriors team replaced the tepid play of a clearly shook Harrison Barnes and replaced it with the white-hot super nova that is Kevin Durant. When Jalen Rose yells things like "Iceberg Slim dropping treys from the suburbs" that means you're really freaking good at the game of basketball.
The Warriors are tired of being a meme, they spent a summer hearing about 3-1, and now they're on a mission to go 16-0 in the playoffs and turn the league that mocked them into a laughingstock.
Steph, Klay, Draymond, and Kevin are three wins away from beginning a stretch where four hall of fame player play together through their primes. Not one of those guys has even turned 30.
Strap in, the Warriors are here to melt our faces off for very, very long time.
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