LeBron James turned in a superhuman performance in Game 1 of the NBA Finals while dropping 51 points, but it appears the insane series of events that led to the Cavaliers loss took an actual physical toll on the Cavaliers.
LeBron James suffered a significant right hand injury after Game 1 when he punched a black board in the locker room, sources told me & @mcten. He had 2 MRIs & has been wearing a soft cast. LeBron not using injury as an excuse but kept quiet to prevent Warriors from knowing.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) June 9, 2018
James acknowledged that he was caught up in the moment when he injured his hand after the Cavaliers 0-1 loss.
“When the game was taken away from us, I had emotions of — you just don’t get an opportunity like this one the road vs. Golden State, to be able to get a Game 1. And, um, I just let the emotions get the best of me and pretty much played the last three games with a broken hand,” James said.
This is obviously a huge mistake, and one that we would collectively rake most players over the coals for. It won’t happen here. James did everything for this team even after he was injured, and he is by a significant margin the least responsible culprit for the Cavaliers quick exit from the Finals.
Ultimately, it’s fair to say that even as he poured in performances that would be good enough to beat most teams, James never reached the level he reached in Game 1. Having an self-inflicted injury on your shooting hand will lead to some drops in efficiency, even for a cyborg like James.
When you combine that with the injury to his eye caused by a poke from Draymond Green in Game 1, it’s fair to say that the Cavaliers never had a fully-operation James the rest of the way. Ultimately, the series played out the way it played out, and the Cavaliers probably wouldn’t have been able to make it interesting even with James at 100 percent.
That’s just a reality of how good the Warriors are and how poorly this Cavaliers roster collectively played through the postseason. Perhaps it’s just a matter of talent, or of their lack of seasoning together, but this team failed to support James in the way that it was built to do.
A couple extra 50 point games wouldn’t have hurt, but one probably was all that was ever fair to expect from James.