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.

Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
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DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.

 

Watch Giannis throw down career-high nine dunks, score 38 in comeback win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks taught the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson in playoff-type intensity well before the start of December.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and the Bucks capitalized on a 23-2 run in the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter to rally past Cleveland 117-102 on Friday night to snap the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee came back from a 16-point deficit by outscoring the Cavaliers 35-10 in the third period. The Bucks hadn’t outscored a team by such a wide margin in a single quarter since Jan. 4, 2019, when they outscored the Atlanta Hawks 43-14 in the opening period of a 144-112 victory.

“We had a little bit of luck on our side and were able to knock down some shots and get downhill and were able to get that momentum and keep it going,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had nine rebounds and six assists. “I think it started from our guards defending the pick-and-roll and Brook (Lopez) just contesting every shot on the defensive end.”

The Cavaliers hadn’t scored less than 15 points in any quarter this season before Friday.

“They turned it up to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led he Cavaliers with 29 points. “That’s playoff basketball, and understanding that they’re going to turn up the physicality (and) everything has to be sharper, everything has to be more precise.”

Darius Garland added 20 for Cleveland. After combining to shoot 14 of 26 and score 38 points in the first half, Mitchell and Garland went 4 of 16 for 11 points over the final two periods.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen played only 12 minutes and scored one point before leaving with a hip injury.

The Cavaliers lost for the first time since their last visit to Milwaukee, a 113-98 Bucks victory on Nov. 16.

“We were trying so hard, and we were like running in quicksand,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the second-half struggles.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis had 14 for the Bucks.

After trailing 63-52 at halftime, the Bucks turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It felt like us again,” Portis said. “I feel like for the last couple of games, we haven’t felt like ourselves, for real, missing a lot of shots and just not playing how we play.”

Jrue Holiday, who committed three fouls in the first 1 1/2 quarters, scored his first points of the game in the opening minute of the third. He followed that up with a 3-pointer.

Carter then found Antetokounmpo for a dunk, though Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have given him a three-point play. Mitchell scored to extend Cleveland’s lead to 65-59, but a Brook Lopez 3-pointer and an Antetokounmpo dunk cut the lead to one.

Lopez then recorded one of his six blocks to set up an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the night with 7:19 left in the third. The Bucks eventually led by as many as 22.

“This is a great lesson for us,” Bickerstaff said. “We played against an established team who knows where they need to go when they need to take it to another level. That’s what we’re learning. They took the game to playoff-level physicality, and those are things we have to learn how to compete against.”

Watch Bam Adebayo score 38, lift Heat to win over Wizards

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MIAMI — Bam Adebayo scored a season-high 38 points and the Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards 110-107 Friday night.

Caleb Martin added 20 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 13 points while Tyler Herro had 11 points and 10 assists for the Heat, who won their second straight at home against Washington after their 113-105 victory Wednesday.

Adebayo’s two free throws with 1:37 remaining put Miami ahead 105-104 lead then extended the advantage on a short jumper with 38 seconds left.

“It was one of those things where my teammates gave me the ball and I was taking advantage of the mismatch,” Adebayo said. “They were shots (Washington) let me have.”

Adebayo has scored in double digits in all 18 of his appearances this season. He’s had double-doubles in half of those games; Miami is 6-3 in those contests.

“He had a lot on his shoulders, really the last several games with a lot of different lineups and everything,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You need that stability from your leaders. I think at some point we’ll print up these shirts, `Mr. Reliable,’ and I’ll wear them, probably.”

Lowry also had eight assists, seven rebounds and a four-point play with 3:15 left for a 103-102 lead – the 11th of what would be 13 lead changes on the night.

And it was another close game for the Heat, who are already 4-3 in games decided by three points or less this season.

“That’s what’s happened really for, it seems like several weeks,” Spoelstra said. “It just feels like every single one of these games is going down to the last possession.”

The Wizards cut the deficit on Bradley Beal‘s dunk before Martin made two free throws with 12.5 seconds for the final margin, then hounded Beal defensively on the game’s last possession and forced the Wizards’ All-Star into a miss to end the contest.

“I take pride in trying to make stops,” Martin said. “Those are the types of situations you dream about, game on the line against a guy like Bradley Beal with the ball late shot clock. I just tried to make it as tough as possible.”

Beal and Kyle Kuzma finished with 28 points Kristaps Porzingis added 18 points for the Wizards.

“We did enough throughout the course of the game to put us in position to win,” said Beal, who returned from a one-game absence because of a quadriceps contusion. “We had several leads and ended up giving up those leads late. It was a matter of us getting stops at the defensive ends.”

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler (right knee soreness) missed his fifth straight game because of right knee soreness while shooters Max Strus (right shoulder impingement) and Duncan Robinson (left ankle sprain) also sat out.

The Heat rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the first quarter and cut it to 59-56 at halftime.

“Obviously, we had shots late that were makeable to keep them at bay,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.