The Cleveland Cavaliers are right where we thought they would be at this juncture of the NBA Finals, down 0-3 to the Golden State Warriors. As has been the case in the first two games, the Cavs started off with a competitive effort throughout the first half of the game, but the doors were blown off down the stretch.
This game featured the best offensive efforts from previously buried bench players thus far in the playoffs. Also, Kevin Love continued to be the most consistent supporting cast member to LeBron James with 20 points and 13, but it’s simply not enough when the defensive effort of the entire squad is lackluster at best.
Poor rotations, slow reactions to ball movement and the fact that not one Cavs player is a lockdown defender in man-to-man sets mean the Warriors are free to play the basketball version of “Hot Potato” while Cleveland stumbles over themselves trying to catch up with the ball.
The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers, 110-102 tonight in Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals to take a 3-0 series lead. Kevin Durant led all scorers with a playoff career-high 43 points along with 13 rebounds and 7 assists for the Warriors, while LeBron James recorded 33 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks for the Cavaliers in the losing effort.
Additionally, coach Ty Lue’s decision to switch on all screens is a major problem. The Cavs big men are doing their best to defend the elusive Steph Curry on the switches, but that’s proven to be a very bad idea. It’s not like Kevin Love is some kind of defensive stalwart but it’s clear he’s giving maximum effort by defending a point guard out beyond the three-point line.
However, he’s 6’10”, 250 pounds. That’s just too big to have to play out there all game long and I’m not sure there are any power forwards or centers outside of Anthony Davis in New Orleans or Draymond Green for the Warriors who could do that for an entire game.
LeBron James recorded yet another mammoth effort in a losing cause with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, but he pretty much disappeared in the fourth quarter. In some instances when the Warriors decided to switch on screens, LeBron didn’t make quick decisions.
Instead, he would slowly back his defender down and either pass out of the double team or force up a contested shot against a set defense. Yes, he’s perhaps the most physically imposing perimeter player in the history of the National Basketball Association, with a jump shot that’s alleged to be one of his most improved attributes from the start of his career to the present. Yet, when and where he decides to shoot, improvement can be definitely made.
Kevin Durant had some of the most nonchalant 43 point games you could ever imagine.
Kevin Durant hit this game-clinching three all the way from Stankonia. https://t.co/FoQ8cNbAbp
His prehistoric wingspan, his unheard ability to score over any defender, and his rare ability to accept criticism from teammates of lesser ability make Durant especially dangerous. He’s literally a basketball weapon of mass destruction. Though he may occasionally have trouble motivating himself at times, his personality affords others the ability to, as former Georgetown head coach Big John Thompson used to implore Alonzo Mourning to tell then teammate Dikembe Mutombo, set a fire underneath their more laid back teammate.
Rodney Hood, who was so deep in the doghouse that one could discern that it was, in fact, a latrine, stepped in and provided 15 points off the bench. However, because he hadn’t seen much action early on, he was late on defensive rotations and often looked confused.
On paper, this is the worst championship contending team that James has ever had the displeasure of leading into the playoffs. Jeff Green, Kyle Korver, and JR Smith have been rendered ineffective by the Warriors. Now, with their backs up against the wall, each of the Cleveland Cavaliers has to dig deeper than they ever had to prolong this series. An arduous task but not impossible, despite the overwhelming odds stacked against a team down three games in a best of seven series.