The Cleveland Cavaliers are a good team. Better than good, they are an elite, top 3 team in the NBA right now. They won all of their first 10 playoff games and only lost once before entering the Finals. It was a genuine question whether LeBron could do the impossible and find a way to defeat this new juggernaut. Those days seem in the distant past after they find themselves down 3-0 as Golden State won a close one 118-113 last night in a game where the Cavaliers were leading a majority of the fourth quarter.
The Warriors are now only one win away from achieving the immaculate 16-0 record in the playoffs, the closest being the 2001 Lakers who went 15-1 on their way to a title. That team also featured a dynamic, future-Hall-of-Fame duo, and the way Shaq and Kobe led their team is drawing comparisons numbers-wise to what Steph and Durant are doing now. Let me make one thing clear though, they could not beat this Warriors team. I dislike hypotheticals as much as the next guy, but even when teams had big 3’s in the past decade, and possibly further beyond that, none have been as dominant or unguardable as these Warriors have looked since Durant joined the team last summer.
There was no way the Warriors should have won this game in Cleveland, a must win for the Cavaliers to stay alive in this series. LeBron played great, scoring 39 points on 55% shooting while grabbing 11 boards and dishing 9 assists. Kyrie had his best game of the playoffs, making Mark Jackson and Van Gundy chuckle at the absurdity of his finishes in traffic. He had 38 and even grabbed 6 rebounds, one offensive one in the final two minutes off of his own shot that would’ve been a huge play for the Cavs if they had closed it out. Chad Ochocinco might have been woke on why he was playing so good when he tweeted “I'm no conspiracy theorist but whenever Kyrie's jersey isn't tucked in he goes Uncle Drew x 10”. JR ‘Henney God’ made some big shots, scoring 16 while going 5-10 from the field i.e. the 3-point line. Korver even added some productivity off the bench, scoring 8 and getting critical late-game minutes. On the negative side, Love only scored 9 points on 1-9 shooting and had the worst plus-minus (-11) of any Cavalier, although he did manage to grab 13 rebounds and 6 steals. LeBron played 46 and Kyrie played 44 minutes each last night, which is why Kerr noted that fatigue plays a big part into their game plan. "I was tired, but that's just because I was just playing as hard as I could," James said. "I gave everything that I had. ... I left it out on the floor." Cavs were +7 in those 46 minutes he was on the floor. In the 120 seconds he rested, the Cavs were -12 with 3 fouls, 2 turnovers, & 0 Field Goals. And now for the just plain awful: Tristan Thompson. The guy scored 0 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in 23 minutes. LeBron and Tyron Lue put in Kyle Korver for more minutes just so he wouldn’t even be on the floor. This is why you don’t just give average guys millions and millions just because you can and he’ll find it elsewhere. You go and let him find it elsewhere. His 9 rebounds a game are nowhere to be found when they needed them the most. Nonetheless, the Cavaliers executed well offensively and were giving the Warriors trouble defensively all night, and it still wasn’t enough to pull out a win when they desperately needed one.
The Warriors actually started slow, and played a notch below their usual standards (which would still be an amazing half for any other NBA team). Draymond was in foul trouble again all night, as he recorded 8 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Klay had his best performance of the playoffs, scoring 30 on 11-18 shooting. Steph had 26 points, grabbing 13 (!) rebounds with 6 assists. But yet again, the star of the team was yet again the Slim Reaper, the Servant, Durantula, or simply Kevin. After only scoring 1 point in the third, he turned on the burners, scoring 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter. Durant has been at his best in the fourth, shooting 67 percent and outscoring LeBron 31-11 over the course of the series. This was the first time the game hung in the balance, though. This was Durant tested as he has never been before, and delivering. The official play-by-play shows that Durant made a 13-foot jump shot with 1 minute, 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to bring the Warriors to within two points. At the 45-second mark there's Durant making a 3-pointer for a 114-113 lead. Then there are two made free throws with 12 seconds left to make it a 116-113 advantage. What it doesn’t show is the way he silenced the sellout crowd with under a minute left in a Finals game. It doesn’t describe the ice he had to have in his veins to pull up beyond the 3-point line two seconds into the shot clock, down 2 with :45 seconds left. And he just absolutely drills it like it’s the most casual shot he’s taken all game. That is a bad, baaad man, as Stephen A would say if he were calling these Finals. "It's not over. This is a crazy game, anything can happen. I'm just trying to enjoy this moment, try not to look in the future or the past." He said after the game.
The Warriors finished the game on an 11-0 run over the last 3 minutes, 8 seconds of the game, and looked their most dominant when it matters most. "It's probably the most firepower I've played in my career," LeBron said. "I played against some great teams, but I don't think no team has had this type of firepower. So even when you're playing well, you got to play like A-plus-plus, because they're going to make runs and they're going to make shots and they got guys that's going to make plays." It was Durant’s first Finals road victory, and the series clinching win will most likely follow shortly, potentially Friday when both teams return to the Q to do battle. Do the Cavs have anything left in the tank? Will they roll over and die or, like JR tweeted after the game, ‘Cavs in 7’? The only way to find out is to watch.
P.S. Free Doritos Locos tacos for everyone!!