#1 – Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors won 67 regular season games and ran roughshod through the Western Conference playoffs, but suddenly find themselves tied with the injury ravaged Cleveland Cavaliers heading into Game 3 of the NBA Finals. In an unexpected plot twist, the Warriors are the team headed to Cleveland with the need to do a little soul searching.
Golden State has fallen behind in each of the first two contests of the series, only to mount successful late-game comebacks and force overtime on both occasions. In Game 1, the Warriors outlasted a listless Cavaliers squad in the extra session. In Game 2, the Cavaliers were the fresher unit in overtime and were to able pull out the victory.
From a momentum standpoint, the Cavaliers are enjoying an advantage after stealing homecourt and securing the win in their first game since learning All-Star guard Kyrie Irving would miss the remainder of the Finals with a fractured kneecap.
The Warriors’ struggles in Game 2 start at the top of their lineup.
League MVP Stephen Curry shot a woeful 5-of-23 from the floor, connecting on 2-of-15 three-point attempts in the loss. Curry also committed six turnovers in 42 minutes, managing to dish out just five assists. Versatile forward Draymond Green posted 10 points, but just an inefficient 2-of-7 from the field in the process.
Heading into Game 3, the Warriors must do a better job controlling the tempo. The depleted Cavaliers are slowing the game down in an effort to keep the high-octane Warriors from enjoying the quick offensive bursts that contributed to their success all season.
On a positive note for Golden State, guard Klay Thompson poured in 34 points after shaking off a rough night from the field in Game 1. Golden State also held Cleveland to 32 percent shooting from the floor.
#2 – Cleveland Cavaliers
After letting a winnable contest slip through their fingers, the Cavaliers were pushed closer to the edge after it was announced All-Star guard Kyrie Irving would be watching from the sidelines for the rest of the playoffs. Already viewed as an underdog heading into the Finals, the Cavaliers were now candidates for a sweep, according to many.
However, the game isn’t played on paper and Cleveland pulled out a gutsy Game 2 victory, with limited resources, in arguably the toughest arena in the league to play in.
While still struggling with his shot, four-time MVP LeBron James recorded a triple-double registering 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the win. In order for the Cavaliers to pull this off, James will need more games of this variety for the rest of the series.
The Cavaliers are playing without two All-Stars and have managed to give the Warriors fits by controlling the tempo and refusing to get into a track meet. Cleveland has also benefited by workmanlike reserves stepping up in critical moments time and time again.
Reigning league MVP Stephen Curry was held to 19 points on 5-of-23 shooting from the floor. Unheralded guard Matthew Dellavedova forced Curry into an 0-for-8 shooting performance in his individual matchup guarding Curry. The team also received an unexpected eight points off the bench from veteran forward James Jones.
Center Timofey Mozgov posted 17 points and 11 rebounds in just 29 minutes in Game 2 and kept the Cavaliers close early, while forward Tristan Thompson hauled in 14 rebounds (including seven offensive rebounds).
While the Cavaliers are relishing in their surprising win, the team also has some issues to address. Guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert combined to shoot 7-for-24 from the floor. Dellavedova, for all of his clutch plays in Game 2, also had a rough night from the field (3-of-10), along with Thompson (0-for-5) who was held without a field goal.
Who Wins Game 3?
It’s tough to envision Stephen Curry struggling mightily from the field and being ineffective in two straight contests. But LeBron James struggled from the floor as well but relied on other aspects of his game to lead his team to victory. James may win the individual comparison matchup versus Curry the rest of the series, but it is clear Golden State has the better “healthy” supporting cast.
Expect the Cavaliers to continue to show fight for the rest of the series, but look for Golden State to eke out a close Game 3 victory on the road.
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