LeBron James, for better or worse, drives Cavaliers in Game 1 loss


LeBron James drove 1-on-3, and Ian Clark picked his pocket from behind. The Warriors pushed the ball the other way, getting Kevin Durant an open 3-pointer.

LeBron never even crossed mid-court.

Cleveland called timeout, and LeBron finally crossed half-court to take a seat for the rest of the night. He finished with a monster stat line – 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists – but a troubling Game 1 loss.

The Cavs’ offense? Sloppy. Their defense? Lazy and uncoordinated.

And LeBron contributed majorly to those problems.

He committed eight turnovers and allowed his primary assignment, Durant, to go off for 38 points. LeBron’s help rotations were even less impressive.

LeBron has now posted 28-15-8 in the Finals more than anyone else combined over the last 25 years (thrice to once each by Draymond Green and Shaquille O’Neal). But this wasn’t the LeBron who put the Cavaliers on his back in last year’s Finals. He wasn’t nearly sharp enough, setting the tone for a Cleveland team that committed 20 turnovers and eventually broke down on numerous defensive possessions.

Asked what stood out about the Warriors performance, LeBron gave a two-letter answer before elaborating.

“K.D.,” LeBron said.

“You take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year, that we saw in the regular season and in the post-season, and then in the off-season you add a high-powered offensive talent like that and a great basketball I.Q. like that, that’s what stands out.”

If that were an admission of his own team’s inferiority, LeBron snapped out of it quickly.

“I mean, it’s no if, ands, or buts. It is what it is. We got to figure out how to combat that, which is going to be a tough challenge for us,” LeBron said. “But that’s what stands out.”

If it means his own individual performance fades into the background, LeBron might gladly give Durant center stage.

LeBron’s dominant start – 13 points, four shooting fouls drawn, on aggressive drives, five rebounds and three assists in the first quarter – turned into an uneven showing. The Warriors pestered LeBron with the ball, took away his passing lanes and exposed his defense. LeBron’s big traditional numbers will mask some of his shortcomings, but there were reasons LeBron was -22, his worst plus-minus game in this Finals trilogy.

LeBron wasn’t bad tonight. It’s hard to be bad with a 28-15-8.

But the Cavs need him to be so much crisper to have a chance against Golden State.