Remember that screen in The Matrix where Neo sees that cat walk by twice and dismisses it as Déja Vu? That’s how it feels watching this years NBA Finals, in particular this game three. If you recall, last year’s game three featured the Warriors walking into Quicken Loans Arena up 2-0 in the series, and the game ostensibly in Cleveland’s favor until this happened:
Even with Steph and Klay having off shooting night’s, Kevin Durant showed he still wants to be in the conversation for best player in the world, posting a 43-13-7. He was otherworldly, but the Cavs were still in the game with under two minutes to go. We can thank James for that who continued on his path to become the human embodiment of lava by putting up a 30 point triple double (33-10-11 on 13-for-28 shooting). He even got contributions from Love (20 and 13) and Hood (15 and 6 off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting). But Korver was a goose egg on offense and when it came down to it, the Cavaliers had a chance to take the game.
The game plan worked! Get out to a lead early, stay with the Warriors as they come back, and make it close for the end of the game. With 1:57 left to go, LeBron put the Cavs within striking distance of a 101-100 score, but the Warriors would counter with an easy dunk, followed by a missed eight footer by Thompson, a dagger three pointer by Durant, and when James finally decided he needed to do it all himself, his bucket to put it within 4 with 40 seconds left was countered by an easy Draymond Green dunk.
If last game was the “Curry Game”, then this game was the “Durant Game”, and that actually was fine with the Cavs. They trapped and forced Curry to give up the ball, which lead to easy dunks and layups for some of the other Warrior’s players (like the resurgent JaVel McGee), but it allowed the Cavs to keep the game close (their 29% shooting from 3 didn’t help them in that regard however). The Cavs held Golden State to 10 fewer shots, 10 fewer rebounds and put the pressure on Curry to give up the ball and have Durant ISO more.
IT’S THE ONLY GAME PLAN THAT WILL WORK and in fact it did.
Until it didn’t. Because the game plan is predicated on pulling out a win at the end in a close game. Game one showed that a once in a lifetime boneheaded move can ruin a series. Game three showed that even if you bring the Warriors to the brink, they are not going to shoot themselves in the foot. You have to take the game from them.
This Cav’s team isn’t capable of that. They’re not the top 10 greatest offense of all time as they were last year. LeBron James can literally only shoot the ball so many times. He’s doing everything he can to get his teammates involved.
But Thompson can’t miss that 8 footer. The team can’t break down for two easy dunks with under a minute to go. Kevin Love can’t only shoot the ball three times in the second half after having a hot start in the first. The Cavs need everything to hit perfectly, and the Warriors to play a B+ game at the very most for them to win. Coach Lue has to out-coach the playing of the Warriors, and put his team in a position to win the crucial final possessions. Putting Hood in and giving no minutes to Clarkson was a great move. But he somehow needs to get Korver going. He needs to get Love more touches in the second half. He needs LeBron to do everything as he has been… and then a little more.
The Warriors are looking to sweep the Cavs at home. As much fight as Cleveland puts up, they may just not have enough in the tank to push them over the finish line.