The first few rounds of the playoffs were filled with blowouts, but I had come to terms with that, knowing the Warriors and Cavaliers were set to play in the NBA Finals. They are the two best teams in the NBA, and their rivalry has been filled with spectacular, memorable moments. The boring times were over.
And then Golden State effortlessly trounced Cleveland by 22 in Game 1. What if this blowout rainbow wasn’t leading to a pot of basketball gold, but just more vicious tramplings at the hands of one of the greatest teams we’ve ever seen? Cleveland didn’t play that poorly, and Golden State didn’t play that well — Draymond Green and Klay Thompson went 6-for-28 from the field with 15 points — and still, the Warriors won comfortably. Golden State committed just four turnovers, tying a Finals record; Cleveland recorded 20. Maybe that’s a fluke, or maybe a sign one team is a lot better than the other.
The first half was entertaining, and LeBron had a 19-point double-double featuring an astounding dunk over JaVale McGee. But despite hot shooting from Cleveland and some weird misses by Golden State, the Warriors still led by eight. It made me wonder: What’s stopping Golden State from outscoring Cleveland by eight in the next six halves?
I want the NBA Finals to be competitive — or at least have a veneer of competitiveness. If the series does look a little bit sweepy, here are my schemes to push this thing to at least six games. I will accept my Golden State overlords; I just want to feel like there was some other possible outcome.
Get Mike Brown to Throw a Game
Mike Brown has subbed in as the Warriors coach while Steve Kerr recovers from complications from back surgery. He’s doing as well as he possibly could, seeing as the team hasn’t lost a game with him in charge.
But Brown is still getting paid as part of the five-year, $20 million contract he signed with the Cavaliers in 2013. They fired him after one season — for David Blatt, who, um, also didn’t last for the entirety of his contract — but Brown has been raking in $4 million a year regardless. He’s almost certainly getting paid more by the Cavaliers than by the Warriors, who hired him as an assistant coach. If Brown is getting paid more by Cleveland than by Golden State, he is beholden to the team and has a responsibility to try to lose at least one game.
Then again, considering there’s been no drop-off between Kerr and Brown, I’m not sure any coach’s strategies could persuade a team with Kevin Durant and Steph Curry to be bad at basketball.
Let’s Roast the Warriors’ Damn Shoes
Four Warriors debuted new shoes Thursday night. Steph Curry wore the new Under Armour Curry 4s, doing a high-kick celebration to let the world know how light they are. Kevin Durant wore a special version of the Nike KDX that was available for purchase only while he was on the court. And Klay Thompson wore this garbage. Even Draymond Green, who has never had a signature shoe deal, got to be the first person to wear a new line of Nike React Hyperdunks.
The Cavaliers are united by their sneakers. LeBron is obviously a Nike guy, Kyrie Irving has his own signature line, and Kevin Love now wears Nikes after endorsing a Chinese brand earlier in his career. Meanwhile, the Warriors’ three best players wear three different brands, an issue that’s reportedly been a source of minor tension between Curry and Durant.
The Chef Curry 2 was released last year on June 9, when the Warriors had a 2–1 lead on Cleveland. We roasted it viciously, and within a week Curry went from a transcendent force incapable of basketball failure to a guy who could be defended by Kevin Love.
For the Cavs to have a chance here, we have to make the Warriors — all of them — self-conscious about their shoes. Their confidence will wane, and they will squabble with each other. It doesn’t matter what you think of the shoes — Steph’s new kicks actually aren’t bad! We must roast them. It is our duty if we want this series to be good.
Rihanna squared off with Kevin Durant on Thursday night, as the pop superstar heckled the Warriors superstar as he torched Cleveland for 38 points. Durant appeared to interact with her during the game, although he was stopped from answering questions about it in his postgame interview by Steph Curry.
Rihanna is clearly more committed to stopping Kevin Durant than anybody on the Cavs is. We can no longer afford to have her on the sidelines as a mere fan. Cleveland needs to quickly hire her as an assistant coach to officially harness her powers.
I dunno, or they can change nothing and keep letting Durant slam uncontested dunks.
Suspend Draymond Green Again
Some fans claim the NBA rigs just about everything. Well, it’s their time to be right. For now, we love Warriors-Cavs — Thursday night’s game was the third-highest-rated Game 1 since ABC started carrying the Finals, behind the other two Warriors-Cavs Game 1s — but if the Warriors keep winning, interest might wane. If we fear the league has become noncompetitive, we might turn away.
The league’s job is easy: Just send some of Draymond’s least favorite referees to future Finals games. (Wait, does Draymond even have least favorite referees? Is it just all of them?) He’ll take matters into his own hands from there.
Have LeBron Do What LeBron Did Last Season
I imagine some of us were worrying about this exact same thing last season, when Golden State crushed Cleveland by a combined 48 points in Games 1 and 2 of the Finals. They weren’t just wins; they were whoopings. And then LeBron James had one of the best individual Finals ever, single-handedly willing Cleveland back from a 3–1 deficit while leading the series in every major statistical category. (I’ve typed this, like, 500 times in the past year, and it is still ridiculous every time.)
Of course, there were differences: Last season, the Warriors didn’t have Kevin Durant; Steph Curry was battling a knee injury; LeBron’s primary defender, Andre Iguodala, had nagging back problems; Andrew Bogut got eliminated from the Finals with a knee injury; and, worst of all, the Warriors employed Harrison Barnes. The 2017 Warriors are less susceptible to one-man ruination than last year’s.
Yes, the Cavaliers got blown out in Game 1. But they have LeBron James. We’ve seen him become superhuman before. He doesn’t even put on a mask before doing it. So let’s flash our LeBron signal as brightly as we can. We need him more than ever.