Right & Wrong: Cavs take 2-1 lead over Warriors

VIDEO: Cavaliers outlast Warriors to take Game 3, series lead

CLEVELAND — Minutes after the final buzzer sounded to end Game 3 of the 2015 NBA Finals, with the Cleveland Cavaliers beating the Golden State Warriors, 96-91, the downtown streets around Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena filled with cars and a street party broke out — windows down, horns blasting, voices screaming. Just don’t ask these people to act like they’ve been here before, because they never have: For the first time in franchise history, the Cleveland Cavaliers are two wins away from being the NBA Champs, and ending a long stretch of pro sports futility. To grab a series lead, the Cavs followed a familiar formula, book-ending a blistering performance from LeBron James on the offensive end with terrific defense and energy on the boards. Meanwhile for Golden State, the MVP may have finally showed up to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, it was a few quarters too late.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 3.

Right: In three NBA Finals games, James is averaging 47.4 minutes per game, 41 points per game, 12 rebounds per game and 8.3 assists per game. Almost everything that the Cleveland Cavaliers do is going through LeBron James, on both ends of the court, because that is what gives Cleveland their best shot at winning games. He jumps over people, runs past people, even occasionally tackles people (as Stephen Curry can attest). James finds open teammates, and creates opening for his teammates that only he can exploit. LeBron is doing it all. And while the Cavs have never been this close to a title before, they’ve got an ace in the hole: LeBron James has a few rings in his back pocket.

Wrong: Stephen Curry may be the greatest shooter to ever play the game, but through three games in the NBA Finals, he’s 11-for-34, for a total of 32.4 percent from the floor. For some players, that’s an aspirational figure. For Curry, the recently crowned MVP, it’s unacceptable. In Game 3, Curry seemed to be in a daze for most of the first half, scoring 3 points in the first 30 minutes. But Curry shook loose in a hurry, scoring 24 points in the final 18 minutes and helping the Warriors pull to within 1 point, 81-80, with 2:45 to play. He still made a few errors — including three turnovers in the last two minutes — but for Golden State to have any shot at climbing out of this 2-1 hole, they have to hope the Curry who closed the game is here to stay.

Right: Before this season, casual Cavaliers fans may not have been able to pick Matthew Dellavedova out of a lineup. Now, no matter how these Finals turn out for the Cavs, Dellavedova is going to go down as an Ohio folk hero. I don’t know if an Australian can run for an office in state or city government in Ohio, but Delly should at least form an exploratory committee. Dellavedova finished Game 3 with 20 points, knocking down a variety of improbable shots and diving on the floor and into the stands for loose balls, drawing larger and larger ovations from the Cleveland crowd. “Delly’s the most Cleveland-like Australian I’ve ever met in my life,” said Cleveland coach David Blatt. “And if you’re from Cleveland, you know just what I’m talking about. The guys love Delly because he just plays with all his heart and he cares first about the team and only about the team. Whether he’s playing 9 minutes or 40 minutes, he’s going to give you everything you have. What’s not to love about the guy?”

Wrong: The Cavaliers may be running low on bodies, but big men Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov have continued to dominate the paint against Golden State with relentless energy and effort. Meanwhile, for a Warriors team in desperate need of a post presence, center Andrew Bogut hasn’t been able to contribute much of anything on the offensive end against the depleted Cavaliers, averaging 3.3 points per game on 3 field goal attempts per game. With Bogut effectively neutralized as an offensive option, the Cavs are able to play off Bogut and provide more help on Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as cutting off Draymond Green‘s drives. The Warriors did seem to find a possible answer late in Game 3 in the form of little-used David Lee, who scored 11 points in 13 second half minutes.

Right: Steve Kerr guided the Golden State Warriors to 67 regular season wins and the runner-up in Coach of the Year voting. But in this series, the coach who seems unable to do wrong has been Cleveland’s David Blatt. Sure, you might argue, with the way James is playing, good luck with any coach messing that up. But Blatt has managed this depleted roster masterfully, putting the right combinations of guys on the floor at the right times, and finding precious moments of rest whenever it’s available. Kerr has been terrific all season. But thus far in the NBA Finals, Blatt has had the upper hand.

Wrong: Cleveland may have won Games 2 and 3, but it required some scrambling down the stretch, including blowing an 11-point with lead 3 minutes left in Game 2, and allowing a 15-point lead to dwindle to 2 in the fourth quarter of Game 3. This may partly be a function of their desiccated roster, with players increasingly exhausted and worn down as games go along, but against a team with such a combustible offense, the Cavs can’t continue to allow fourth quarter leads to dwindle and hope to hang on and win.

4 Comments

  1. jkrich says:

    AND why the heck does everyone think steph curry is doing so poorly with shooting from the field in these finals?!?!?!?! Need I remind everyone that he shot 10/20 in both games 1 and 3?!?!?!?! He is not shooting as poorly as everyone thinks! That game 2 was a fluke!!!!!!!!!!! In games one and 3 shooting 50% from the floor is higher than his regular season percentage! He’s not in a slump by any stretch of the imagination by shooting 5 for 23 from the floor for ONE GAME!!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow says:

    Matthew Dellavedova is a serious playoff contender. What a pickup.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I agree completely. Laxing in the 4th is going to bite the CAVS in the rear. But exhaustion is likely the reason. #ALLinCLE

  4. wtf says:

    Lebron James may be the superstar but MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA is the real MVP.