The way Cleveland came out in this game could not have been more opposite of Game 2. Defensive energy was way up for the entire contest — active hands, on-ball pressure etc — and their offense was clicking at an entirely different level. They turned it around so tremendously, in fact, that the Cavs walked out of Game 3 with a 120-90 victory.
Even without Kevin Love, the Cavaliers pulled ahead early in the first with a 33-16 advantage. Kyrie Irving was absolutely on fire, raking in 16 points on 7/9 shooting that included crossovers on both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. LeBron James was clearly more aggressive, finishing with eight points himself on 4/4 from the field, and really benefitting from Kyrie’s explosion. Golden State looked rattled, and rightfully so as they hadn’t competed against this energetic Cavaliers team before. Both the Splash Brothers went scoreless in the first on a combined eight shots, and Andrew Bogut was their leading scorer with four. It was odd enough seeing the Warriors defense get picked apart like that, but it was to see their offense struggle as mightily as it did. Especially from behind the three-point line. Of the 20 shots they attempted in the quarter, ten of them came from behind the arc, and they connected on just one.
Both the Splash Brothers went scoreless in the first on a combined eight shots, and Andrew Bogut was their leading scorer with four. It was odd enough seeing the Warriors defense get picked apart like that, but it was even more odd to see their offense struggle as mightily as it did. Especially from behind the three-point line. Of the 20 shots they attempted in the quarter, ten of them came from behind the arc, and they connected on just one.
The Warriors collected themselves in the second and prevented the game from getting out of hand. Thompson, who took a knee to the thigh late in the first, spent some time in the locker room but then came back and poured in ten points very quickly, knocking down four-out-of-five shots. His backcourt mate hardly played in the period after picking up his third foul and missed almost the entire second half of the second quarter. Despite their improved offense, Cleveland didn’t help their chances by missing a ton of shots around the rim, and LeBron James was right at the center of it.
After his roaring start, the King shot just one for ten in the period for three points, and Irving cooled off immensely as well. Uncle Drew lost his touch and missed six of his seven shots. Tristan Thompson, however, rectified all those misses by relentlessly pursuing the basketball, and he was able to pull in seven rebounds, with six of them coming on the offensive end. The Cavs put up just 18 points to Golden State’s 27 and entered halftime with a 51-43 lead.
Out of the intermission, Cleveland got their rhythm back and hung 38 points on the Warriors while shooting 75% from the field. James was especially active on both ends of the floor and tallied 13 points, a steal, and two blocks; J.R. Smith got hot in a hurry and dropped nine, and Tristan Thompson and Irving each had six. Golden State did their best to hang but just couldn’t. Curry, very quietly, had 13 of the Warriors’ 26 points on 4/7 after having a very mediocre first half; it’ll be interesting to see if that gets him going for the rest of the series, like what happened last year. Both teams moved the ball well, but the Cavs doing it without committing turnovers was something not seen in the first two games.
Tyronn Lue elected to keep James, Smith, and Irving in for some of the fourth quarter, and the trio put in 16 of the Cavs’ 31 points. Steve Kerr took almost the same approach but pulled both Green and Curry before the three-and-a-half minute mark; Thompson played six minutes but was largely unproductive.
The Cavs got exactly what they needed: a LeBron James who’s thinking score first. Even if he wasn’t thinking that, he hid it very well and went out and dropped 32 on 14/26 shooting with just six assists. Uncle Drew also had 30, but out-assisted LeBron with eight, something that Irving isn’t known for. For the Dubs, Curry came alive in the second half but it was a case of too little, too late. He had 19 on a decent 6/13 shooting, but the Cavaliers defense made him uncomfortable at times and forced him into six turnovers. Thompson and Draymond were ineffective on offense, scoring 16 points combined on 6/21 shooting.
Game 4 is Friday, June 10, at 9:00 PM EST in Cleveland.