The Golden State Warriors tried to orchestrate yet another historic comeback. Unfortunately, the hole they dug themselves through three quarters was too large as the Cleveland Cavaliers took Game Three with a 96-91 victory.
LeBron James put in another workmanlike effort scoring 40 points, with 12 rebounds and eight assists over 46 minutes of action. While he is still inefficient, hitting just 14-of-34 shots, he’s getting the job done as he’s controlling the pace of the game.
Also, with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving out, Matthew Dellavedova has stepped up as James’ sidekick. Dellavedova poured in a career-high 20 points and was a team-best plus-13 on the night.
Stephen Curry, who struggled early in this one, did his best to steal this game for Golden State. Curry scored 17 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, but he added three late, sloppy turnovers that proved costly.
Once again, Golden State struggled on the offensive end of the floor in the first quarter. The Warriors shot 39 percent in the first and scored just 20 points. Curry was still off with his touch as he hit just 1-of-5 in the first and 1-for-3 from distance. The difference was Curry added three assists and three rebounds as he was more aggressive in setting up his teammates.
Also, the Warriors did a nice job of limiting James, holding him to 3-for-10 from the floor and six points, but the Cavaliers took a 24-20 lead after one. A concern for Cleveland was Iman Shumpert, who had to leave midway through first quarter after appearing to injure his left shoulder after running into a hard screen from Draymond Green. Shumpert was able to return to action later in the first half.
Things didn’t improve for Golden State in the second quarter as their offensive frustration continued to mount. The Warriors managed just 17 points in the second as their backcourt was flat-out terrible in the first half. Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes would combine to shoot 4-of-21 with just nine points as Cleveland took away any offensive rhythm and space.
James Jones would add an exclamation point on an awful half of basketball for Golden State with a corner three with under one second remaining to give Cleveland a 44-37 lead at the break. The 37 points by the Warriors was a season-low for them. Golden State continued to struggle from three-point range, hitting only 3-for-16.
Yet again, the Cavaliers set the tone for this one as they dominated the paint, outscoring the Warriors 24-16. They flustered the Golden State big men with their constant movement, highlighted by Tristan Thompson who racked up seven points and seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end.
No matter what statistic you looked at, it was a disastrous performance from Golden State. The only bright spot was the play of Andre Igoudala. Igoudala led the Warriors with 10 points, and he did a tremendous job in limiting the effectiveness of James. James shot just 6-of-17, good for 13 points and three assists.
Cleveland took the fight to Golden State to begin the third and the Warriors had no response. James and Dellavedova combined to score 19 points at the onset, as the Cavaliers would build a 15-point lead midway through the frame. The lead would swell to 20 as Cleveland simply took the will out of the best team in the league.
The Cavaliers would hold the Warriors under 60 points for the second consecutive game, as they took a commanding 72-55 lead after three quarters of play.
But Golden State would show their first signs of life all night to begin the fourth. The Warriors would use a quick 8-0 run to cut the deficit to nine just under 10 minutes remaining. David Lee, making his first appearance in the Finals, helped sparked the Golden State offense in the pick-and-roll.
Lee scored five quick points and added a couple of assists as the Warriors trimmed the Cavaliers lead to five, as Golden State opened the quarter on a 15-3 run over a four-minute span.
Cleveland appeared to run out of gas as their offense stalled in the hands of James. Also, Curry began to look more assertive and confident as he looked like the MVP for the first time since Game One. Curry would use a beautiful reverse layup after mesmerizing Tristan Thompson with the dribble, to cut the lead to three as it was Cleveland’s turn to go ice cold from the field.
However, after Golden State cut the lead to one, Cleveland used a 6-0 spurt as James hit a huge three with 1:44 remaining to give the Cavaliers an 87-80 lead. Curry would try his best to keep Golden State’s faint hopes alive. Curry would hit two threes to make it a three-point game with 18 seconds left to play.
But, it was too little, too late for the Warriors as their first three quarters doomed them. Now, Golden State trails a series 2-1 for the second time in this postseason, but should be more concerned about this one.
The Warriors were punched in the mouth in this game, and a majority of the team wilted. Barnes was held scoreless and was a minus-14. Green was 2-of-10 and was reluctant to shoot the wide-open three late in the game. Oh, and he was also a minus-14.
Klay Thompson also needs to be better as he scored 14 points, but that’s not enough from an All-star caliber player.
On the positive side, Curry regained his confidence in the second half as he scored 24 points, including six from three-point range. Igoudala is continuing to play at a high-level and is making James work for his points. Lee was huge with 11 points and 13 minutes, and those minutes should rise as this series wears on.
The Warriors have been down before and responded. But, in their first true test of adversity, what is this Golden State team made of?
Guess we will all find out on Thursday night.