Did you miss game 1 of the NBA finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers last night? Were you tired of the same old same old? Well, that’s pretty much what we got, but classics never go out of style and is there anything more classic to Denver Nuggets fans than J.R. Smith making a good play to give his team a chance to win only to ruin it in the most mind numbingly possible way? The answer is: only a classic Javale McGee moment. Well, last night we got both!
McGee’s moment was all too classic. Coach Steve Kerr elected to start McGee in the second half and he immediately gave the Warriors a boost. The Cavs naturally switched him onto LeBron but McGee responded with some impressive defense (at least until he got pump faked out of his shoes) and on the offensive end he provided them with energy while moving well off ball to find himself open for easy put backs. After all, if Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are the other guys on the floor, your best bet is probably to let McGee roam free because, as he showed, even when he’s wide open directly underneath the basket nothing is guaranteed.
Of course this is nothing new for Nuggets fans (or anyone who has followed McGee’s career) as Javale has had a plethora of cringe worthy plays on the court. I somewhat feel bad for him, at least as bad as you can feel for a guy who makes millions playing a game. Javale’s a ridiculously tall man with ridiculously long legs and arms. The world, hell even a basketball court, isn’t sized with him in mind. Add to that less than great awareness and an admirable desire to try to do as much as possible, even when there’s nothing there, and you get a Shaqtin’ a Fool human highlight reel. Even this particular play it’s easy to see what happened when you break it down. When McGee gets the ball he’s actually in the air with his back to the basket as he was jumping backwards. When he lands he looks to his left, away from the basket, and realizes there’s no one around him but they’re closing out so he goes up quick. Unfortunately for Javale, he never gets a chance to realize exactly where he is in relation to the basket and when you’re a seven footer directly under the basket there’s no time to adjust mid air. Poor Javale, at least he didn’t throw the ball into the 3rd row.
The best part too is no one will even remember Javale’s gaffe because J.R. made a far more monumental and boneheaded mistake. After battling through the Warriors all night as well as a questionable replay review, the Cavs had victory at their doorstep with the game tied under 5 seconds and George Hill at the free throw line with one more to shoot. Before we go any further let’s point this out: if Hill, an 80% free throw shooter, simply knocks down the shot then the Cavs are back on defense with a lead under 5 seconds. They may very well still end up losing but it would be because of the greatness of the Warriors and not the mind boggling lack of awareness by J.R. However, Hill misses the shot and Smith snags the rebound in good position to put the ball back up and get the win. J.R. being J.R. though, he dribbled out to the three point line thinking that Cleveland had the lead and the clock expired. The Cavs would go on to lose in overtime.
That’s bad awareness, no other way to put it. J.R. would say after the game that he knew what the score was but if you watch the very end of the highlight he clearly tells LeBron James “I thought we were ahead.” Sort of the story of J.R.’s career, good player but terrible awareness mean’s he’ll never be great. That goes for on-court awareness and self awareness. Ultimately this time it cost the Cavs one of the greatest Finals performances ever as LeBron becomes the first player in Finals history to score 50+ points in a loss. It also now becomes a measure of how mentally tough Cleveland is. That’s a brutal way to lose and while in the end Golden State winning the game still boils down to them doing what they are supposed to do, losing such a great opportunity to steal one from the Warriors in their own building is incredibly deflating. Now the Cavs have to immediately forget about it and come out ready for game two. Another loss leaves them with the arduous task of winning four of five against the greatest team on earth. #Nugglife Cavs fans, delivered by the king of #Nugglife himself.