We do not yet know how many points it takes for LeBron James to score on his own to beat the Golden State Warriors. We do know that J.R. Smith should not be placed in charge of counting them.
We also know that whatever it is that keeps the Golden State Warriors from remaining fully engaged in games must surely be eradicated now.
But that's just the start of a series that we stupidly thought would lack effervescence. In fact, it has already had more bubbles than all of the moments of the 2017 Finals, and it has barely begun.
The Warriors' 124-114 overtime victory over Cleveland in Game 1 of the Can We Get A Fifth Series Of This Please Finals provided a stridently hallucinogenic start to a series that might still be short but has already passed mere chaotic and made a beeline for the nearest wormhole.
And who doesn't think watching games turn into spaghettified molecules of madness is worth the price of admission?
James scored 51 points and could have had 53 if J.R. Smith hadn't thought that 107-107 means you win. The Cavs might have won before that had the officials invoked a rarely-employed rule that allows for review of block-charge calls in the final two minutes that turned a Kevin Durant foul on James as called by Ken Mauer into a James foul on Durant as called by the review cops in the east.
The Cavs might have won had not James been seemingly perplexed by the Warriors' decision to put Stephen Curry on James in the half-court in overtime, and had it work.
The Cavs might have won except, as Steve Kerr put it afterward, "We got lucky."
And that was before Tristan Thompson decided to spark a near-bench-emptying brawl that, if nothing else, exacerbated the rivalry between James and Curry.
Now with all that, it is hard to imagine how Golden State can have any more in-game walkabouts, or how they can disengage from the rigors of the game as they sometimes do. The Cavaliers . . . well, James, really . . . gave them their best work, and vomited up a game they had seemingly already won.
It is the kind of mistake for which underdogs are mercilessly punished, and the Cavs were indeed punished in full, with tax. Having tossed away a chance to win in regulation when Smith dribbled out the last four seconds, they were gobsmacked by the Warriors' time-released third quarter blitz, brought to you two periods later for your enjoyment.
And it may be the reason why Thompson lost his head and decided to forearm Shaun Livingston in the final few seconds of overtime to precipitate his ejection and renew the undercurrent of hate between these two otherwise moderate rivals.
Either way, the Warriors took an expected 1-0 lead in the weirdest way possible, showing if nothing else just how thin the margin of error the Cavs actually have. If they cannot win a game because they can't agree on the score at the end of the game, if they cannot win when James scores 51 points, if they cannot win after fighting back time and again and seemingly overcoming a reversed foul call in the final minute of regulation . . . well, the conclusion seems obvious.
At least it does if you believe that one can cite the causes for the result of one game and correlate it to the next. Or if you believe that when an underdog's best shot goes unrewarded, there is no second chance, then . . . well, again the conclusion seems obvious.
So the Warriors cheated the reaper. The Cavs felt cheated, screwed up the basics of time-and-score and eventually became undone. And then there was the scene at the end in which Curry and Klay Thompson and James bickered with each other about the shambles before them. The chat did not look pleasant.
In short, the NBA Finals have begun with an absolute piefight-turned-tavern-brawl, and at the same time nothing about the larger perceptions of the two teams or their main characters has really changed.
Not yet, anyway.
|Game 1||Oakland -- Warriors 124, Cavaliers 114|
|Game 2||Oakland -- Sunday, June 3 at 5pm|
|Game 3||Cleveland -- Wednesday, June 6 at 6pm|
|Game 4||Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm|
|Game 5||Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm|
|Game 6||Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm|
|Game 7||Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm|