For the first time since 2007, LeBron James faces the possibility of being swept in the NBA Finals.
And just like in 2007 when James and his Cleveland Cavaliers took on the San Antonio Spurs’ dynasty, they’re facing a team that looks poised to control the landscape of the entire league for years to come.
After blowing a six-point lead in the final three minutes of Game 3 at home, losing by a final score of 118-113, the Cavaliers will be playing for their season Friday night against the Golden State Warriors. However, barring a bout of perfect execution, Cleveland doesn’t look equipped to be able to avoid the four-game death sentence Golden State is looking to dish out.
Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry continued to dominate the series during Game 3, with Curry turning in 26 points and 13 rebounds while Durant pitched in 31 points — with his biggest three coming on a lead-taking jumper from beyond the arc with 45 seconds left to play. Despite another herculean performance from James — 39 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — his teammates just didn’t hit the shots they needed to. Cleveland finished 12-of-44 from beyond the arc, and Kyle Korver missed the biggest three of the night when James kicked it to him in the corner with 52 seconds on the clock and the Cavaliers leading 113-111.
As the Warriors have shown all postseason on their way to a record of 15-0 so far, the opposition needs to play 48 straight minutes of perfect basketball. The Cavaliers threw their best punch for 46 minutes of that total when James was on the court, registering +7 plus/minus score. However, for the two minutes James took to the bench, Cleveland went -12, squandering all chance of a series-changing victory.
What the league is witnessing with Golden State is potentially the greatest semblance of talent ever seen. Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have all made their presence felt this series. Thompson sank six three-pointers in Game 3 on his way to 30 points, and despite facing foul trouble nearly all game, Green pitched in his well-rounded eight points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Simply put, any opportunity the Cavaliers had to convert Game 3 into a victory was eventually extinguished by one of the Warriors’ fearsome quartet.
While the Cavaliers will look to avoid having their season ended on their home court in Game 4, the Warriors at this rate look too much to handle. As the stage gets set for the potentially the last game of the 2016-17 season, Cleveland will have to bank on the same type of performance from James along with a recreation of Kyrie Irving’s Game 3 efforts. Irving found his shot Wednesday night and poured in 38 points after struggling the first two games of the series. Along with the two heavy hitters for Cleveland in James and Irving, they’ll need some more help from the supporting cast.
Kevin Love failed to continue his hot start to the Finals in Game 3, finishing just 1-of-7 from three-point territory. However, Love resembled shades of his Minnesota-self by dominating the glass on his way to 13 rebounds. The real problem for the Cavaliers was once again Tristan Thompson, who finished scoreless for the second time in three games and managed to secure just three rebounds. In order for the Cavaliers to have any shot in Game 4, Thompson will need to revert back to his regular season game where he averaged over nine boards a contest.
Dominating the glass and slowing the Warriors’ devastating pace to their liking stand as two of the tallest task the Cavaliers need to accomplish in terms of breaking Golden State’s winning streak and avoiding a sweep on the NBA’s biggest stage. Unfortunately, with the game clock on their season nearing zero, it appears to be too little, too late in making this series any bit competitive.
Who Wins Game 4?
Even back on Cleveland soil and with great performances from James and Irving, the Cavaliers were unable to secure a victory over the Warriors in what looked like their best opportunity to do so.
With that said, after a heartbreaking loss for Cleveland, Golden State will continue their run of dominance and turn in the first undefeated postseason the league has ever seen by beating the Cavaliers four games to none.
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