As the NFL celebrates its 100 anniversary, the league welcomes the Kansas City Chiefs back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. The Chiefs, 1.5-point favorites in Super Bowl 54, won Super Bowl 4 23-7 over the Minnesota Vikings as 12-point underdogs. Their opponents, the San Francisco 49ers have won five of six Super Bowl appearances but none since a 1995 victory in Super Bowl 29.
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It's tough to say who should be more encouraged by the result from Game 1 of this series.
On the one hand, the Indiana Pacers had an opportunity to win on the last possession. The half-court set was broken and jagged, but C.J. Miles still got a relatively clean look at the basket, even if Paul George wasn't happy that he didn't get the ball.
On the other hand, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn't play particularly well. LeBron James flipped the switch, as we knew he would. And Kyrie Irving played pretty good defense. Tristan Thompson even made life hell on Myles Turner. But Irving shot 1-of-9 from three, the Cavaliers lost the battle in transition and on the glass, and the offense, while at times effective, devolved into a bunch of one-on-ones, rendering Cleveland easier to defend.
It's more likely the Cavaliers iron out their wrinkles, particularly on the offensive side. The Pacers might get better efforts from guys like Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague and Turner, but they aren't getting much more from Lance Stephenson and George than they did in Game 1.
Remember, while basically underachieving, the Cavaliers built a 12-point lead. They were a stop or two from turning this thing into a full-fledged blowout. The adjustments they make before Game 2 should prove more potent than whatever the Pacers are able to do.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-8.5)
For a fleeting second in Game 1, it looked like the Memphis Grizzlies were prepared to send a message to the San Antonio Spurs.
Emphasis on fleeting.
The Grizzlies built an early 13-point lead, but they couldn't hold it. And not only couldn't they hold it, they were outscored by 42 points the rest of the way. No one aside from Marc Gasol ever got going on offense, and they lost just about every important battle, with the exception of points in the paint.
Memphis was outshot at the free-throw line, outgunned from three-point land and outworked on the defensive glass. The Grizzlies scored more points in transition than the Spurs, but that one-point edge doesn't mean a darn thing.
And they're defense absolutely fell apart. They aren't going to win a single game in this series if Tony Parker, who has looked five steps slow all year, is able to scamper his way toward 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting...in under 22 minutes of action.
It takes a lot for us to say the Spurs played faster than their opponent. They are slow by designed. But they outpaced the Grizzlies after falling in an early hole.
Maybe Memphis still manages to steal a game this series. But it's not happening in San Antonio. It's more likely to come during one of the two contests in Memphis.
Even then, looking at the macro view, it's difficult to see the Grizzlies coming back from this in any way, shape or form. Because, let's face it, there is no coming back from this.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-11)
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