June 8, 2018
Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals took place at The Q in Cleveland, Ohio. The home of one of the NBA’s greatest players of all time, the home of the King, the home of LeBron James. Although he said that he doesn’t “feel good” about being down 2-0 to the defending champions, he said he is confident for the opportunity presented for the rest of the Finals. This attitude was infused in the Cavaliers and is was clear from the tip that the Cavs were in no position of retreat or surrender. Cleveland began the game controlling the tip and took the lead with the very first shot off of Kevin Love’s fingers for three. It wouldn’t stop there though, JR Smith would also join the party by knocking down a three of his own. Although the Warriors did try to match the tenacity and aggressiveness of the Cavaliers, LeBron and Co. were too much to handle with a Tristan Thompson offensive board and put back and an immaculate self-alley-oop off from LeBron James the literally left people in awe and amazement.
Before I get back to the review of the game, I just want to go breakdown why LeBron might have done this alley-oop to himself, because this is not something you see every day. It is mostly a regular season or all-star game type of play and for LeBron to do this in the type of setting, a game that could decide the 2018 NBA Finals, it shows that:
The Cavs were firing on all cylinders as of early, great shot selection, great defense, and great hustle, all the ingredients needed to cook up a win. As the Cavs build a lead as high as to 12 points in the first quarter, it wouldn’t be long for the Warriors to come storming back, and it was Kevin Durant that would lead the charge. Durant would hit a spinning mid-range shot to start the rally, and then assist Draymond Green for an easy dunk on the other end. The Warriors started using the signature ball movement and three-point ability, and with 14 seconds left in the first, we were all tied at 26. Rodney Hood, a Cavalier that has been absent from any meaningful playtime in the playoffs finally played in the first half of the game, and he did not disappoint, scoring an easy mid-range bucket very quickly. He came in as a spark plug and gave the team energy which helped the Cavs build a 7-point lead in second quarter after LeBron bullied his way to the basket for two. Nothing was easy for the Warriors in the first half, the Cavalier defense was stifling with them diving on the floor and scrambling to the open man. The Cavs would expand their lead to 13 points with back to back Kevin Love three pointers, but Durant and Bell powered the Warriors with shot making and creating as well as hustle to make it 6-point game going into the half. Draymond Green became the facilitator in the third quarter, and this was a way to loosen the defense of the Cavaliers, with alley-oops and finding spot up shooters that would quiet the crowd and help their team battle back from their halftime deficit to eventually take the lead with less than 8 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. But it would not take long for the Cavs to strike back, matching the three-point ability of the Warriors and trading baskets to keep the game tied and within reach. This trend of trading baskets carried through to the 4th quarter and the energetic activity from Jordan Bell got the Warriors easy baskets throughout the game. But, Rodney Hood matched that energy and gave the Cavaliers a steady scoring hand coming off the bench. With about 6 minutes remaining in the game, the scoring was 92-91 in favor of the Warriors, but both teams would continue to exchange buckets with each other until Steph Curry hit a three with less than three minutes remaining in the game. It wouldn’t take long for LeBron James to follow Curry’s three with one of his own to make it a one-point game with less than two minutes remaining. But after Kevin Durant assisted Andre Iguodala for a furious dunk to put the Warriors up 3, he would then put a dagger in the heart of all Cavalier fans with a 26-foot three pointer with less than a minute to play to put the Warriors up 6, which inevitably lead to a 110-102 victory over the Cavaliers, putting them up 3 games to none in the 2018 NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers played well enough to win against most teams, getting contributions from Rodney Hood, Kevin Love, and JR Smith, but playing the defending champions is a different story. The Cavaliers must shoot better from downtown if they expect to win a game against one of the most high-octane offensives in NBA history. The Cavaliers did a great job of bottling up Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (aka the Splash Bros.) but gave up too many easy baskets from Warrior players such as Jordan Bell, Andre Iguodala, and JaVale McGee, slipping screens and rolling to the basket. Of course, Kevin Durant scoring 43 points in 43 minutes of gameplay while also having 13 rebound as well as 7 assists is something of concern for the defense, but you can live with that if he is the only superstar scoring at this rate. Honestly, if it weren’t for a total of about 12 minutes in this series, the Cavaliers could be up 2-1 rather than down 3-0. Again, the officiating was a bit of a concern with the Cavaliers not getting their first free throw attempt until about 11 minutes left in the third quarter but bad calls and no calls are a part of the game. Bottom line: The Cavs focused too much on the perimeter play of the Warriors and allowed to many easy baskets in the paint.
The Golden State Warriors will come out lackadaisical and allow the Cavalier players who are still hungry to compete and who honestly should be up 2-1 in this series to quickly jump on them and not look back. Kevin Durant will not have another game like he had in Game 3, but we should look out for Stephen Curry to have a big bounce back game. By the end of the game it will be close, but I do believe the Cavalier players can string at least 2 wins together to keep the series interesting.
Game 4 will be played in the Cleveland at The Q on Friday, June 8th, 2018 on ABC at 9 p.m. Will the Cavaliers show pride on their home court and try to extend their season at least one more game, or will the Warriors crown themselves as kings of the NBA in the domain of where LeBron built his throne?
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