The Golden State Warriors and their fans are in the thick of the NBA Finals now. After two of the most thrilling games we’ve seen in the Finals in recent memory to open the series, the Warriors and Cavs took back to the court Tuesday night for another show of spectacle.
The game was of course highlighted by the usual performances from LeBron and the massive fourth quarter performance from the Warriors we’ve grown to expect. There was also the coming-out party of the Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova, who we are learning is just being released from a local Cleveland medical facility after suffering cramps from extreme dehydration.
At this point we should be expecting the unexpected to be displayed in Game 4.
Playing in his fifth straight NBA Finals, the four-time MVP and two-time champion LeBron James made himself the star attraction taking control of Game 3 early. James has now assisted, scored, or created 200 of the Cavaliers’ 291 points through the first three games. Tuesday evening he collected 40 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and two blocks.
Replacing the injured Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers breakout star Matthew Dellavedova made his presence felt throughout the game and was more than an important factor in several key fourth quarter plays that ultimately sealed the victory for fans in Northeast Ohio. Dellavedova posted respectable numbers, finishing with 20 points, five boards and four assists.
We all thought the Warriors were clearly the better team on paper entering the series. While no one thought the Warriors would just cruise to victory in the NBA Finals, most didn’t expect to see almost a carbon copy of the Memphis series against a beat up Cleveland squad. So what approach should head coach Steve Kerr be taking his team heading into Game 4?
Rally off Fourth Quarter Performance
The Warriors scored 36 of the teams 91 points in Game 3 in the fourth quarter. This cut what was once a 20-point lead down to just one at the climax of the run. LeBron got to Harrison Barnes early, and has done it often since the start of the series. After a nearly six minute period where Lebron collected six points and saw Cleveland to an early seven point lead, Kerr opted to sub Iguodala. The desire to pair Barnes with Curry is something we all understand, but it is time for Kerr to start considering starting Iguodala, or at least bringing him in very early at the least. The MVP erupted for the Warriors in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 of his team-high 27 points. And just like an unlikely hero emerged from the Cavaliers roster, Golden State big man David Lee saw his first action of these NBA Finals Tuesday night. And he did not disappoint. Lee stormed out of the gate, immediately collecting 9 points and finishing with 11 in the game. He looked unusually impressive from the charity stripe as well. It seemed the Warriors had finally figured out how to crack Cleveland’s defense. Or were the Cavs just running on fumes?
Fuel Left in the Tank
Cleveland is short two All Stars (Irving and Love), and have been without the services of one of their and possibly one of the league’s most undervalued players, Anderson Varejao. While somehow the Cavs have been the aggressors this entire series, it’s become apparent that head coach David Blatt is running out a seven-man rotation against one of the league’s deepest depth charts. The attempts to slow down the game the Cavs have started to adopt can only speak to one truth: Cleveland is running out of gas. James has played 142 of the series’ 154 minutes against what could be the fastest transition game in the league. Dellavedova was hospitalized after suffering from severe cramps during a 38 minute performance in Game 3. And of course Iman Shumpert missed nearly an entire quarter after he hurt his left shoulder. This team has used its second, third, and fourth winds already in this series, and they’ll have to do it two more times and once more at Oracle if they want rings on their fingers.
Find a Sense of Urgency
Starting strong has been an issue for the Warriors since the Finals begun. They have yet to win a first quarter in the series, and have carried a deficit into halftime in all three games. Don’t just take my word for it, other big game NBA players tuned into the series have noticed the same thing:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) June 10, 2015
One significant difference between the first three rounds of the playoffs and now is the Warriors fast-break offense. Or lack-thereof. During the regular season, the Warriors averaged 20.7 fast-break points per game. During the first three rounds, they’ve averaged right around the mid-20’s. In the NBA Finals, they’ve recorded just 35 fast-break points, and only four in Game 3. The Cavs do not have the players to run up and down the court with Golden State, so re-igniting the offense on this club is key to getting an edge over Cleveland.