Cavs Stay Alive With Rout:
After two lackluster performances in Oakland, the Cleveland Cavaliers had been almost left for dead in their NBA Finals series against the Golden State Warriors. But with Kevin Love sidelined with a concussion, Lebron James and Kyrie Irving combined for 62 points and JR Smith woke up long enough to pour in 20 as Cleveland romped to a 120 – 90 victory. Considering the Warriors’ dismal game three record going back to last year’s Finals, it wasn’t surprising to see them fall behind from the beginning, trailing 9 – 0 in the opening minutes and never really recovering. For the third consecutive game, the Cavs were able to neutralize MVP Steph Curry and his backcourt mate Klay Thompson. This is starting to look more like a trend than a blip, with Curry in particular looking far different than the sensation we’ve seen emerge over the last couple of seasons.
Considering that despite their third game woes, the Warriors are still only two games away from their second consecutive title, it’s premature to push the panic button if you’re a Golden State fan. But the Cavs have definitely found something to at least neutralize the Splash Brothers, and with game four still in Cleveland, can probably be optimistic that they can even the series heading back to Golden State. The big question is can Cleveland get a win in Oakland, especially given their lack of production there to start the series? Lebron James and Kyrie Irving were able to find their shooting touch in game 3, which should be a concern for the Warriors as they try to game plan for tonight. James hasn’t shot jumpers very well throughout the season, so he has been mostly deferring on mid-range shots and passing to teammates, at least until Wednesday night. Will he continue to shoot confidently, even on the road? If he does, the Cavs might look a little differently offensively as the series continues.
At this writing, Kevin Love’s status for game four is still uncertain. Whether he plays or not, lineup tweaking and roster changes made from game to game are what make the NBA Finals so fascinating. It’s particularly important in this series because there is such a disparity between the effectiveness of different lineups for both teams. But at the end of the day, coaches can do any number of strategic tinkering in from the sidelines, but if the players don’t shoot well, rebound and play good defense, it doesn’t much matter who is on the floor. And for the past two seasons, the Warriors have just shot better played better defense than their opponents, thus finding themselves where they are.
Can Cleveland still win this series? I think so, but they’ll need to continue their aggressive play and timely shooting while denying Steph Curry and Klay Thompson room and time to get off their shots. The Cavs will also need the officials to keep allowing more physical play, something that is clearly disruptive to the Warriors’ style of play. I’m hoping for a Cavs win, not so much because it will keep alive my prediction of a Cleveland title, but because it will extend the series to at least six games, and possible seven. It would be a great way to finish the season and start the countdown to football.