Pre-Game Hangover

Is new CIA director Gina Haspel also the covert commissioner of the NBA?

She kindasorta conditionally implied the CIA would not enhance any interrogation techniques under her watch (but when she’s not watching?).

But she did not promise the NBA would refrain from torture.

No doubt there is a lot of money at stake, but kicking off the Finals less than three or four days after two grueling seven game semi-finals? Forget the physical and mental techniques enhanced at the players. What about us?

After being subjected to the emotional rollercoaster of Games 4 through 7, they are dragging us from of our cells for Game 1 on less than three days rest.

As a friend pointed out during the first half Monday night, “we do have real lives.”

Do we?

First Quarter: Mission Street Sports Bar

A little piece of suburban Cleveland in the Mission. Not the old rust-belt Cleveland, but the new “renaissance” Cleveland, buzzing with sports bars, health care for the rich and quickie loans for everybody else.

LeBron James had very little to do with the 60-year transformation of Cleveland. But he’s got everything to do with opening minutes of Game One, making the Finals’ first hoop.

Steph Curry answers with a long 3, and it’s game on.

James targets Steph on defense. Poor Steph. His reward for surviving the relentless assaults of James Harden is a human Stryker Combat Vehicle. But Steph’s up for it. Does he have a choice?

It’s not a thing of beauty but the Cavs show more than a sign of life. Both J.R. Smith and Kevin Love get going, each nailing a three.

The Warriors are not playing defense with anywhere near the intensity and speed they played against Houston. The Cavs consistently get open shots from long range. The Dubs even let James alone — not a good idea.

With six minutes left, J.R. Smith slides into Klay Thompson’s leg, sending him sprawling to the floor in pain.

There’s a sudden eerie pall inside Mission Street Sports Bar as Thompson hobbles off the court to the locker room.

“Doesn’t look so bad,” says the woman standing next to me. How does she know? Is she a sports doctor?

When time comes back in, Draymond Green and Jordan Bell drive the lane for easy layups. And LeBron James connects again from long range. 20-19 Cavs.

A comment on the wings (garlic-parmesan and buffalo): Not bad for sports bar wings. A comment on the fries: forgettable.

The two teams trade hits and misses, with J.R. Smith and Kevin Love continuing to make an impression. The Cavs seem a livelier, faster, team than the one that played Boston.

The quarter ends with KD missing, again, from downtown. 30-29 Cavs.

Second Quarter: The Liberties

Crowded but not too crowded. Noisy but people are into the game big time, and when Thompson returns, Mark Zuckerberg can hear the cheers from The Liberties all the way up 21st.

That Thompson promptly misses a 3, and LeBron delivers a vicious dunk, does nothing to dampen the spirits. There’s a sense of camaraderie.

Nothing like a few misses by Curry, Thompson and KD to quiet  things down. Especially, because the Cavs, in particular backup Larry Nance, keep corralling rebounds and getting second and sometimes third shots.

It’s a full five minutes before Thompson hits the Dubs’ first 3 of the quarter, bringing the Warriors back from the brink.

Gin and sweet potato fries keep me going through long stretches of Larry Nance offensive rebounds (seriously!). And the Cavs are not standing around looking at James. They actually move the ball.

When James go to the bench for a breather, the Cavs, behind Love and Korver, go up 11.

Curry and Thompson quickly bring the deficit back down to 6.

Cleveland gets cold and KD gets hot (or warm at least), and a last second, 38 foot shot by Curry knots the game at half time.

Is that an earthquake that shakes Zuckerberg Manor? No. It’s a collective Bay Area cheer!

(Not for you, Mark).

Halftime: Could be better, could be worse  

The Cavs are playing better than expected — faster, looser. James is doing his thing, but the Cavs’ rebounding is the big surprise. They are dominating the Dubs on the glass.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are not playing great, but they’re not playing badly, and it looks like they’re engaged.

Third Quarter: The 500 Club 

The Dubs have played particularly well at The 500 Club during the Rocket series, so I feel obliged to go there now. If the Dubs have another one of their signature third quarters, they’ll blow open the game.

The crowd at The 500 Club is not overflowing. And the demographic has changed. Most guys, heavily guys tonight, look like they’ve been here since 7 a.m.

So do the Cavs.

The Dubs come out of the locker room on a 10-4 tear behind JaVale McGee. Who? JaVale disappeared during the Houston series. Tonight, he’s back. The Cavs don’t know what hit them. Timeout.

The Cavs mount a comeback after JaVale misses a wide-open dunk under the basket. Which is not funny in real time.

Kevin Love and Larry Nance continue to get rebounds, James continues to make shots and the Dubs go to KD. But KD is cold.

“I’m not worried,” my friend says. “His shots will fall eventually.”

That’s what the Rockets said.

But my friend is right. Again. Over the last 3 minutes KD rings up six points, and Klay sinks a 3 to take the Dubs into the fourth quarter with a 6 point lead.

Fourth Quarter: Giordanos

I’m hesitant to leave The 500 Club because the lead seems thin. But it’s only Game 1 and I want to check out the buzz on 16th street.

Good idea. Giordanos is packed and rowdy. Unlike last week, when it seemed like a detention hall for Pittsburgh Pirate fans. Tonight they’re focused on the game in front of them.

Whatever the Cavs are drinking, I’ll have a shot of that.

Once again, it’s not just LeBron. Jeff Green gets things going; Kyle Korver and Jordan Clarkson all make shots. This is not good. The Cavs are back on top.

Half the quarter to go, KD misses a free throw, but Kevon Looney pulls a Larry Nance and tips the ball in for a very needed two points.

After Draymond Green (?!!) and Steph Curry hit 3s, the Warriors take a 100-94 lead with 4.5 minutes remaining. LeBron keeps locomoting, but the key shot is another Kevin Love 3.

KD gets stripped once, then again as he forces up a shot. But wait. The refs call a foul. On Durant. But then they say no, it’s on James!

With five seconds left, Klay Thompson fouls George Hill (if he doesn’t, Hill has a wide open layup). Hill makes a free throw tying the game. The second one for victory.

Hill misses.

J.R. Smith grabs the rebound. And dribbles away as James screams for the ball. It’s one of the biggest brain farts in NBA history.

Overtime: Bar San Pancho

No place to stand. People packed tight like the BART at rush hour. All eyes raised to the screen.

KD sinks a couple more free throws, Thompson nails a 3 and Curry sets up Shawn Livingston with a patented Steph assist.

LeBron repeatedly targets Steph, and miraculously Steph holds his ground. For the first three minutes of overtime, LeBron does not score!!!  Or assist.  Cleveland’s got nothing left. LeBron’s run out of gas. Love’s run out of luck.

Another 3 by Draymond Green ices the game.

Nothing left now but some trash talk between James and Curry and a Tristan Thompson elbow thrown in the general vicinity of Draymond Green’s head.

Post-Game

Exciting enough for you?

As a recovering Clevelander, I feel their pain. This one has got to hurt.

Not that Dubs fans care. For the Dubs, it was kindasorta, conditionally speaking, a pretty good game. Lots of technique. Lots of enhancement.

They drag us from our cells again on Sunday.

Previous articles can be found here.