Why Game 1 Of The NBA Finals Is Extremely Important For Both Teams

NBA Finals

Why I think game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals is oh so important.

Everyone remembers the scene last year. The Warriors were up 3-1 (I can’t believe I’m writing that) heading home ready to host game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Cavaliers. They lose Draymond Green to suspension thanks to LeBron James’ dry snitching punching LeBron James in the ball bag. Losing Green was like losing their toughness, brashness, and confidence all at the same time.

(Looks at the game 5 box score.

Harry B shot 2-14?

Closes game 5 box score.)

By the end of game 4, the Warriors had outscored the Cavs by 29 points. The Cavs would outscore them by 33 points the rest of the way.

It was a tale of two teams for both. Pre-Draymond suspension, the Warriors looked like the best team in the history of the NBA. Post-Draymond suspension, the Cavs looked the same. Is game 5 of last year’s finals the ultimate swing game in the history of the NBA Finals? Have two teams looked so different pre and post game 5 before? I’m not going to do the research to answer that question, but I’m going to guess no since no team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit (ugh, I had to write that again).

The Cavs come into this series as an underdog, just like last year. What they have on the Warriors is that they beat them three straight times in the finals last year, including twice on the Warriors home floor. It’s an emotional edge, even considering the Warriors beat the Cavs by 35 points less than five months ago. All it will take for them to gain that emotional edge all over again is to win game 1 on Thursday. And it would also give the Warriors the, “Oh no, here we go again,” feeling.

For the Warriors, they need game 1 to show that it’s a different year, different team, and a different time. They can exorcise the demons of losing a 3-… man, I’m not writing it again.

I’m not going to get into the analytics of why it’s important to win game 1 and what percentage of teams who win game 1 eventually win the series. It surely didn’t matter last year.

nba finals

Photo cred: CBS Sports

But the reason this year is different is because of how last year ended. This series is a chest pounding, ego-driven culmination of a journey in which everyone knew the destination before the season started. We haven’t seen a scenario like that since the 1987 NBA Finals when the Celtics and Lakers faced each other for a third time in four years.

(By the way, they should’ve faced each other four times in four years if not for the Houston Rockets upsetting the Lakers in the 1986 NBA Western Conference Finals. Magic and the Lakers don’t get enough flack for losing that series. I know it was a mismatch nightmare for Kareem, but they won 11 more games than the Rockets during the regular season. The 1986 Celtics vs the 1987 Lakers would’ve been the ultimate match-up.)

Each team’s chess moves have the other team in mind. Each team believes they have the psychological edge over the other.

Why did the Warriors so badly want Kevin Durant? Just look at Harry B’s finals. When Steph and Klay were cold, they had no one to turn to for dependable buckets. Durant provides that and more. If they get cold now, they just post up Durant, get a quick bucket, and stop whatever run the other team is on.

Cleveland has surrounded LeBron with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to outside shooting. Kyle Korver and Deron Williams were added to help out their second team, but to also give LeBron more options to close out games if other parts of the supporting cast go cold.

The matchups are fantastic. KD vs LeBron. Curry vs Kyrie. Draymond vs KLove. Klay vs Kyrie (who he’ll guard on the ball until he gets screened on just about every possession). Dray vs LeBron’s ball bag part two. Andre vs LeBron.

It’s going to be a series full of counters. What happens if the Warriors counter the Cavs’ ball screens to get LeBron the best possible matchup by putting the Hamptons’ Five on the court together? What happens if the Cavs successfully trap Curry? What happens if Klay continues his shooting slump? What happens if Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green hit all the open threes that the Cavs will give them? What happens if Kyle Korver finds the court and the Warriors don’t attack him defensively every possession? Okay, that one isn’t happening.

In 2015, the Cavs were missing Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, which all Cavs fans are quick to remember. In 2016, Steph Curry was hurt, which all Warriors fans will remind people about. In 2017, everyone is healthy except one; Steve Kerr.

If the Cavs can win game 1, Mike Brown all of a sudden becomes the coach who can’t win the big one. If the Warriors do, Mike Brown can make the necessary adjustments on the biggest stage.

Whoever wins game 1 has the emotional and psychological edge and it will be huge. Whoever loses game 1 will have a tight-in-the-cheeks fanbase. It’s oh so important.

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