Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> After three games of these NBA Finals, what strikes you most about this series?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: That we’re seeing a new level of special from LeBron James. It’s possible his heavy lifting in this series might still go for naught, but already he has taken his game to new heights by boosting his run-of-the-mill teammates — with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love out — right along with him. I contend I saw something click, in him and in them, from the start of the Chicago semifinal series. They started it licking the grievous wound of losing Love and finished with a confidence and belief — most notably, James in guys like Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert — that made what’s happening now seem downright reasonable.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s easy and incredibly tempting to say the transformation of Matthew Dellavedova into a minor god and I will. But even more so is the total commitment to the task and all-in attitude by LeBron James. Jalen Rose described his first two games of the series as “monstropolis” and then James went out in Game 3 and did everything but breath fire. We might be witnessing the greatest Finals performance ever.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The difference in focus. Maybe it’s even emotional toughness. The Cavaliers are locked in. They are playing with an attitude that goes beyond typical confidence. The Warriors have not played with a champion’s mindset most of the playoffs. That has continued into The Finals, where Cleveland has been able to exploit it like no previous opponent. The best part about the Cavs so far is the worst part about the Warriors.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Steph Curry’s shooting issues. It’s the No. 1 factor in The Finals, the biggest worry for the Warriors and perhaps a mystery to the Cavs as well. Maybe Curry broke the spell with his searing second half on Tuesday, but until he does that for four quarters, you wonder if his 2015 Finals will be as surprisingly lacking as LeBron James‘ 2011 Finals, when he shrank unexpectedly against the Dallas Mavericks.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Cavs have flipped the switch defensively like no team I’ve seen before. They’re the lowest ranked defensive team (20th in the regular season) to make The Finals since the league started counting turnovers in 1977, and they probably benefitted from some opponents playing sub-par offense in the first three rounds. But they have answered all the questions through the first three games, holding the Warriors (the No. 2 offense in the regular season) under a point per possession. There was one stretch of the third quarter in Game 3, where they were just on a string and anytime a Warrior got near the basket, he was turned away. In the last 37 years, the only three teams to win a championship after ranking outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season — the 1988 Lakers, the 1995 Rockets and the 2001 Lakers — had won the title the year before. So this has been a remarkable turnaround by a team that doesn’t have that experience and that was never all that focused on that end of the floor.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The frivolous nature of the Warriors’ play on this stage remains a stunner. Where is the urgency? Coach Steve Kerr warned them and made sure to have Luke Walton do the same. They did not want a crew without an Finals experience showing up here and assuming that this was going to be like anything else they’ve done as a group. And yet, three games in, the Warriors still don’t seem to get it. They remind me of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. They assume there will be another chance to reach this point and chase that Larry O’Brien Trophy. There are no such guarantees, though.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The importance of experience and hunger is crucial. The older stars tend to be hungrier. The 2008 Celtics were hungrier than the Lakers. The 2011 Mavericks were hungrier than the Heat. The 2012 Heat were hungrier than the Thunder. LeBron James understands how difficult it is to win the championship more so than Stephen Curry. Maybe Curry will have learned from this experience in time to lead his team back to the championship. Or, maybe he needs to lose this Finals in order to come back as LeBron did from his own loss in 2011.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Just how little we actually know. Seems like we all watched the Warriors romp through the regular season and thought they’d just continue on during the postseason, but they reached the NBA Finals and, at least in Games 2 and 3, ran into a brick wall that they don’t seem to be able to solve. The Warriors were so dominant during the regular season, but now all that seems out the window. The Cavs have junked it up, slowed things down and tipped what seemed like a mismatched series in the completely opposite direction.