The big storyline of game three was Kevin Love and whether or not he’d return for action from his concussion protocol. Well it turned out to be a non-factor as the Cleveland looked a different team against the Warriors on their home floor.
Besides the loss of Love, LeBron decided to takeover in what he called “a do or die game”. His 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks, were something we hadn’t seen from James recently. It looked like the “old LeBron” as a fan told me.
Was it expected? A win maybe, but in blowout fashion? Not so much. The Cavaliers led by as many as twenty points heading to the third quarter and ended up winning the game by 30 with a final score of 120 to 90.
An up-and-down affair in which the Cavaliers relied heavily on role players like Richard Jefferson, Tristan Thompson, and Smith while Love was out. A completely different game from games one and two with game ball winner Richard Jefferson starting for the injured Love. The Cavaliers really looked the better team throughout the game, locking down Stephen Curry and holding him to 2 points at halftime.
From the beginning of the game, I don’t think there was much doubt that Cleveland was going to allow Golden State to go up 3-0. They came out with a different intensity, really making it difficult for Golden State to play their game and style.
But I think the biggest difference maker in this game was CONFIDENCE. The Cavaliers looked the better team because LeBron knew he needed to takeover, knew he needed to get others involved, and because of that, others followed suit. Kyrie Irving, who’s looked rushed and erratic, looked aggressive, smart, and became that game facilitator with decisiveness.
Shots were taken in rhythm and when your offense flows, your defense can become better. It allowed the Cavs to play a more comfortable style and you could see that emotion throughout the team.
Because of how well they played, this game almost gave Cav’s fans more reason to buy-into “blowing it up” or getting rid of Kevin Love. ESPN’s Ethan Strauss mentioned that in the TrueHoop post game show stating “a loss may have proved the value of Kevin Love, but with a win the voices and rumors only become louder”.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr wasn’t pleased with the performance, but he can’t be too concerned. Cleveland is 8-0 at home in the playoffs and on their first game back home for the finals. Beyond that, Steph and Klay couldn’t find a rhythm or their shot, making the weight on their teammate’s shoulders even bigger.
Combined, Klay and Steph went for -49 in plus-minus throughout the game, and shot an abysmal 4 for 16 from downtown, not their usual standards.
There is still a ton of room for improvement on both sides and I think we’ll seem some extreme adjustments for the Warriors as they went away from playing the small-ball “death lineup” to playing big-men like Bogut for extended periods of time. They went away from their original game plan and it felt like they did it too soon, so expect to see some adjustments to go back to a similar strategy as game one and two for Kerr’s bunch.