Game 1 of the NBA Finals was a microcosm of what it means to be a Cleveland sports fan, as the full spectrum of emotions were felt throughout the evening. The Cavaliers led Golden State by double digits (hope), LeBron James scored 44 points (pride), Kyrie Irving was injured (dread) and eventually the Cavs lost in overtime (despair).
Yup, that about sums it up.
“The Warriors were scoring a lot easier (in overtime) and the Cavs were struggling to score at that point,” Cavaliers television play-by-play voice Fred McLeod said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. You lose Kyrie Irving with a fractured knee cap as it turned out, and it was just too much to overcome. That game – one free throw made, one jumper made, one no-travel against (Timofey) Mozgov with a minute-and-a-half left – that’s how close these two teams were. The final score made it look like a decisive win. But if anybody watched it – and obviously a ton of people did – it was razor thin in terms of difference.”
James had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, as did Iman Shumpert, who barely missed a tough jumper from the corner. Shumpert had more time than he realized to gather himself before the shot, but it’s hard to fault him for rushing.
“It was a split-second shot that had to go,” McLeod said. “He said he thought it was good when it left his hand. That shows how close these two teams were in that ball game. If that thing goes down, we’re talking a totally different set of circumstances and maybe Kyire doesn’t suffer the injury the way he did in overtime. Nobody knows. But I know Cleveland fans are going, ‘Here we go again.’ It’s heartbreak after heartbreak. But hey, this team has shown the ability to win in the playoffs without (Kevin) Love and Irving. And they’re going to be determined to steal Game 2 and bring it back home. They know they’re going against a top, top team. Golden State’s obviously better than anybody in the East and it’s going to be a daunting task. But they’re up for it.”
With Irving out for the rest of the series, the Cavs will need everyone to step up – from Shumpert to J.R. Smith to Matthew Dellavedova to Tristan Thompson to James Jones.
“No doubt,” McLeod said. “I think Mozgov still could be a key factor in this series. I thought he played really physically. I’d say he played pretty darn well. (Andrew) Bogut’s a good rim protector, but I think he can win that matchup just because of his mobility. So absolutely, everybody’s going to have to throw the chips in and help out. You can’t ask LeBron James to score 60 and carry this ball club. He’s going to do what it takes. In the Chicago series specially, those guys did step up. It’s a tough task. They know it. But everybody in Ohio likens it to what the Ohio State Buckeyes did with a third-string quarterback. Nobody expected them to beat Alabama, nobody expected them to beat Oregon and they hoisted that trophy at the end. Hopefully another script can be written the same as the Ducks. That’s what everybody in the state of Ohio is hanging their hats on right now in terms of hope.”