Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers never stood a chance.
Maybe the Golden State Warriors were too good. Maybe Game 1 was always going to go to the home team.
Or maybe, just maybe, the Cavs made a tactical mistake on Thursday night — one that falls squarely on the shoulders of LeBron James.
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It's no secret the Cavaliers' defense is atrocious. They've turned up the intensity this postseason, but all the effort in the world can't make up for a roster filled with subpar defenders.
LeBron wasn't going to accept that inevitability, however. He spent Cleveland's run through the Eastern Conference preparing to do his best Kevin Garnett impression against the Warriors.
LeBron knows he's one of the smartest players in basketball history. He understands what Golden State wants to do on offense; he can see how the play will unfold before the first dribble.
In turn, he's doing everything he can to put his teammates in position to stop the Warriors. He's like a pilot behind the controls of one of those giant, mechanical Jaeger suits from the movie Pacific Rim — a suit of war made entirely of the likes of Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, and the rest of Cleveland's role players.
Such a scheme seems reasonable. LeBron is the only clear plus-defender on this roster (depending on how you feel about Thompson), so he wants to use his abilities to bolster his otherwise lackluster squad.
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That approach couldn't have failed worse on Thursday night.
Instead of keeping his team on a string, LeBron looked absolutely lost, and for good reason. You can't both guard Kevin Durant and try to play defensive coordinator as the play is happening; you're just asking to get burned.
LeBron's attention was everywhere but the action in front of him, which gave the Warriors ample opportunity for easy shots at the rim off of back-cuts and straight-line drives past a defender with his head turned.
In the second quarter, Cleveland adjusted by switching Kevin Love onto KD and having LeBron guard Draymond Green, only to watch Durant abuse Love all over the court.
The Warriors spaced all five players above the 3-point line, taking away any easy help for Love on KD.
When LeBron did send one of his teammates to assist, Durant found the open man. When the Cavaliers tried to single-cover him, he all but scoffed as he poured in bucket after bucket. Cleveland was trying to come up with a way to stop the NBA's best scorer on the fly, and got roasted for its efforts.
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If the Cavaliers are going to make this a series, they need their role players to step up, to be sure. LeBron, Kyrie and Love can't be the only guys in double digits, or these Finals will end in four games. It probably won't hurt if LeBron avoids another eight turnover outing, as well.
Yet a solid contribution from the rest of Cleveland's roster and taking care of the rock won't be enough. LeBron and coach Tyronn Lue have to go back to the drawing board before Game 2 on Sunday to figure out how to slow this Golden State offense. They must bring back the tough-nosed, rough-and-tumble, borderline-dirty defense the Cavs played to storm back from a 3-1 deficit last year.
Because right now, LeBron is bringing a supercomputer to a job that requires a sledgehammer, and it's not doing anyone any good.