Game 1 rout doesn’t doom Cavaliers in NBA Finals

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LeBron James didn’t have all the answers after the Cavaliers’ 104-89 loss to the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, but he remained steadfast.

"We will have a better game plan going into Game 2," LeBron said.

False bravado? Maybe.

But at least LeBron could muster it.

Another all-time great wasn’t as convinced after his team was blown out in Game 1 of the Finals.

The Lakers dropped the first game of the 1985 Finals to the Celtics, 148-114.

"It was the first time – and the last time- I ever remember us with a look on our face that said, ‘We don’t know what to do,’" Magic Johnson said.

Yet, the Lakers found their way, winning the series in six games.

Here’s every Finals opener sorted by scoring margin – when the Game 1 winner won the Finals in blue, when the Game 1 loser one the Finals in red:

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Game 1 Scoring margin Game 1 winner win Finals?
1961: BOS 129, STL 95 34 Yes
1985: BOS 148, LAL 114 34 No
1992: CHI 122, POR 89 33 Yes
1965: BOS 142, LAL 110 32 Yes
1951: ROC 92, NYK 65 27 Yes
2009: LAL 100, ORL 75 25 Yes
1972: NYK 114, LAL 92 22 No
1960: BOS 140, STL 122 18 Yes
1996: CHI 107, SEA 90 17 Yes
2000: LAL 104, IND 87 17 Yes
1974: BOS 98, MIL 83 15 Yes
2005: SAS 84, DET 69 15 Yes
2014: SAS 110, MIA 95 15 Yes
2016: GSW 104, CLE 89 15 TBD
1962: BOS 122, LAL 108 14 Yes
1947: PHW 84, CHS 71 13 Yes
1987: LAL 126, BOS 113 13 Yes
2010: LAL 102, BOS 89 13 Yes
1964: BOS 108, SFW 96 12 Yes
1970: NYK 124, LAL 112 12 Yes
1986: BOS 112, HOU 100 12 Yes
1988: DET 105, LAL 93 12 No
1989: DET 109, LAL 97 12 Yes
1999: SAS 89, NYK 77 12 Yes
2003: SAS 101, NJN 89 12 Yes
2004: DET 87, LAL 75 12 Yes
1948: PHW 71, BLB 60 11 No
1954: MNL 79, SYR 68 11 Yes
1976: BOS 98, PHO 87 11 Yes
2012: OKC 105, MIA 94 11 No
1971: MIL 98, BAL 88 10 Yes
2006: DAL 90, MIA 80 10 No
2008: BOS 98, LAL 88 10 Yes
2007: SAS 85, CLE 76 9 Yes
1953: NYK 96, MNL 88 8 No
1993: CHI 100, PHO 92 8 Yes
2011: MIA 92, DAL 84 8 No
2015: GSW 108, CLE 100 8 Yes
1980: LAL 109, PHI 102 7 Yes
1982: LAL 124, PHI 117 7 Yes
1994: HOU 85, NYK 78 7 Yes
1967: PHI 141, SFW 135 6 Yes
1968: BOS 107, LAL 101 6 Yes
1975: GSW 101, WSB 95 6 Yes
1977: PHI 107, POR 101 6 No
1983: PHI 113, LAL 107 6 Yes
1984: LAL 115, BOS 109 6 No
1990: DET 105, POR 99 6 Yes
2001: PHI 107, LAL 101 6 No
2002: LAL 99, NJN 94 5 Yes
1949: MNL 88, WSC 84 4 Yes
1952: MNL 83, NYK 79 4 Yes
1955: SYR 86, FTW 82 4 Yes
1956: PHW 98, FTW 94 4 Yes
1966: LAL 133, BOS 129 4 No
1978: SEA 106, WSB 102 4 No
2013: SAS 92, MIA 88 4 No
1959: BOS 118, MNL 115 3 Yes
1963: BOS 117, LAL 114 3 Yes
1973: LAL 115, NYK 112 3 No
1981: BOS 98, HOU 95 3 Yes
1998: UTA 88, CHI 85 3 No
1950: MNL 68, SYR 66 2 Yes
1957: STL 125, BOS 123 2 No
1958: STL 104, BOS 102 2 Yes
1969: LAL 120, BOS 118 2 No
1979: WSB 99, SEA 97 2 No
1991: LAL 93, CHI 91 2 No
1995: HOU 120, ORL 118 2 Yes
1997: CHI 84, UTA 82 2 Yes

There’s plenty of reason for the Cavs to be discouraged:

  • They’re facing an all-time great opponent and have rarely looked elite themselves – a big-time mismatch by record.
  • When teams without home-court advantage lose Game 1 of the Finals, they’ve won just 21% of the time.
  • Teams that lost Game 1 by more than a dozen have won just 11% of the time.

But the 1985 Lakers – whose first Finals defeat was dubbed the "Memorial Day Massacre" – at least offer hope. If the Lakers could rally after losing by 34, why can’t Cleveland after losing by "just" 15?

Those Lakers needed soul-searching, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar apologizing to each of his teammates. The Cavaliers aren’t nearly as rattled.

"We’re not a team to lose our composure," LeBron said.

More false bravado? Maybe.

But this was just one game. Even a shook team can come back from a 1-0 deficit.

The ’85 Lakers proved that, forever giving hope to slow-starting Finals teams.

It’s not much, and teams beaten this badly still usually lose. But for a Cleveland team that has lost six straight to Golden State, it’s at least something.