When Cleveland ruled out Kyrie Irving for the rest of the NBA Finals after Game 1, I thought the series was over. I thought Golden State would win the next three games, or maybe Cleveland steals one in Cleveland. I just thought it would be a quick series.
Tristan Thompson deserves a ton of credit for why the Cavaliers are two wins away from winning a championship. Golden State can’t double LeBron when he’s in isolation situations because of two reasons: the Warriors are afraid of what LeBron can do as a passer and Tristan Thompson is the best offensive rebounder in the postseason, and maybe the best offensive rebounder in basketball. Cleveland’s big men are the reason why LeBron can do what he wants on offense.
Matthew Dellavedova’s doing what everyone should do when covering Stephen Curry. Bump him, make things difficult for him, get above every screen and face guard inbound passes. Cleveland has dictated everything this series: slowing down fast breaks, their offensive pace and forcing Golden State’s inferior players to make plays. Those players, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, made plays all year for Golden State, but that starting frontcourt finished Game 3 a combined 4-21 with 11 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block, four turnovers and minus 36, meanwhile, Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov had four blocks and six points and Tristan Thompson had 13 rebounds, 10 points and finished plus 13 in 44 minutes. Draymond Green averaged 5.6 assists against the Houston Rockets in the conference finals. Green has eight total assists through three games. He needs to be a better playmaker. He hurt his back in Game 2, and that probably has something to do with his poor play in Game 3. Who knows what would’ve happened if David Lee couldn’t give the Warriors those good minutes last night? David Lee was a playmaker, and not much of a liability on defense (Cavs shot 7-18 against Lee last night). He should consistently play minutes the rest of the series, especially if Green isn’t close to 100 percent.
In the first quarter of last night’s game, LeBron James blew by Harrison Barnes for an uncontested dunk. Andrew Bogut should have met him at the rim. At least foul LeBron James in that situation, Bogut. There shouldn’t be any easy buckets in the paint, especially when Bogut’s such a great rim protector. Opponents have shot 53 percent against Bogut in the restricted area this postseason, but that number has jumped to 62 percent in the first three games of the Finals. Bogut has to be better. He has to set the tone defensively.
Stephen Curry will have a 30-plus game soon. For the Warriors sake, it better be tomorrow night. Both teams have two home games left, but the Warriors would have the upper hand if they can steal one in Cleveland. It’s definitely not a must win for Cleveland on Thursday. They’ve shown they can win anywhere, but Golden State has to win. You can’t give Cleveland three chances to close you out even if only one of those games will be in Ohio. I want to see Stephen Curry play like he did during that fourth quarter the whole game. He showed emotion on that charge he drew early in the fourth. He made a poor decision on the behind the back pass with Golden State trailing 84-80 late in the fourth, but he’s made that pass so many times before. He had six turnovers in consecutive games, which is a credit to Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert and LeBron James. It hurts when the guys who made plays for you all year (Barnes, Bogut, Green, Livingston) aren’t consistently making plays against a defense that dares those players to hurt them. Cleveland doesn’t want Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to score 70 combined points because Cleveland would have no shot without Irving helping carry the offensive load.
Hustle. Kobe Bryant tweeted something so real last night. Cleveland played like they were in the Finals. Ask Oklahoma City how easy it is to get back to the Finals. This might be Golden State’s shot. Right here. This might be there only opportunity to win a championship. They better leave everything on the court every game because there is absolutely no guarantee they’ll ever be back. Not when the Thunder, the Spurs, the Clippers, the Rockets, the Mavericks, the Pelicans play in the same conference as you do. I hope Golden State evens things up tomorrow night. I hope this thing goes 7, but if Golden State doesn’t fight back tomorrow, this thing’s over.