CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers got their first win against the Golden State Warriors since Game 3 of last year’s Finals, ending a seven-game losing streak to the defending champs with an easy win on Wednesday. The Finals are definitely going back to Oakland for Game 5 next week and the Cavs will have a chance to even the series in Game 4 on Friday. They’re now 8-0 at home in these playoffs.
One stat stood out from the rest in the Cavs’ 120-90 victory in Game 3.
+17 – The plus-minus of the Cavs’ starting lineup in Game 3.
With Kevin Love out with a concussion, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue used a starting lineup that had never played more than four minutes together (and was a minus-7 in less than 15 total minutes over the regular season and playoffs). Richard Jefferson got the start at small forward, moving LeBron James to power forward. The Cavs got off to a 9-0 start and were up 21-8 when Jefferson went to the bench with 4:18 left to go in the first quarter.
After a big second quarter, the Warriors were back within eight points at the half, but the new Cleveland starting lineup had another strong start to the third quarter, outscoring Golden State 13-3 over the first five minutes in the period. In total, the new starting lineup outscored the Warriors, 53-35, in less than 22 minutes of time together on Wednesday. It was the best basketball, on both ends of the floor, that we’ve seen from the Cavs in this series.
The lineup change had James defending Warriors power forward Draymond Green and switching onto MVP Stephen Curry when Green set a screen for him. Curry had a brutal start to the game, missing his first four shots and turning the ball over three times in the first half. The quick starts propelled the Cavs to 71 points on just 47 possessions (1.51 per possession) in the first and third quarters.
The Cavs were sharper on defense and more aggressive on offense, with Kyrie Irving scoring 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting in that first quarter. Tristan Thompson also gave his team multiple second opportunities, finishing with seven offensive rebounds.
Whether or not Love passes the league’s concussion protocol and is able to play on Friday, the lineup that hadn’t played much together before Game 3 will probably see more time in Game 4.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA