Friday, June 08, 2018

For the Second Straight Year, Game 3 Saw KD Lead the Dubs in Pushing the Cavs to the Brink of a Sweep

The Finals shifted to the Cavs’ home court for Game 3, and as expected, the role players did a much better job helping LeBron James, who had 33 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds.  Kevin Love had a solid 20 points at 46% shooting along with 13 rebounds.  Game 1 MVP J.R. Smith had 13 points.  And Rodney Hood got unleashed, shooting 7-of-11 for 15 points in 25 minutes of play.  They were physical and active for most of the game.

Meanwhile, the Splash Brothers were awful.  Klay Thompson only managed to take 11 shots and score 10 points within 40 minutes.  And Stephen Curry, fresh from setting a Finals record for most three-pointers made, was an abysmal 1-of-10 from behind the arc, and just scored 11 points overall.

Didn’t matter.  Warriors still took a 3-0 lead.

The Warriors’ well-oiled, unselfish offensive machinery was reliable as it always has been.  Even though the superstar shooters were having an off-night, role players kept receiving openings for buckets.  The bigs – Draymond Green, JaVale McGee, and Jordan Bell – each scored 10 points, while Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala chipped in 8 points each.

This was also Iguodala’s first appearance in the Finals after getting injured in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.  Right from the start, I’ve believed that a sweep is guaranteed if the 2015 NBA Finals MVP plays.  And indeed he made an impact in this game.  Coming off the bench, he played for 22 minutes to share in the burden of slowing down LeBron, and to contribute plays like this…
He only had one assist, but it was this beauty.

But the key to the Warriors’ victory was Kevin Durant, who matched LeBron James’ legendary Finals performance in Game 1 with one of his own.  He dominated with 43 points (65% shooting), 13 rebounds, and 7 assists.

In the first half, when the Cavs were outplaying the Warriors, it was his big buckets that kept them out of getting blown out…
And in the second half, it was also his unstoppable scoring that powered them to overtake the Cavs…
It was not all scoring either; his playmaking was also invaluable…
But the highlight of this spectacular performance was his assassin trey that sucked the life out of Cavs Nation…

It was reminiscent of what he did in last year’s Game 3.  Here’s a simultaneous look on both Game 3 daggers:

By the way, LeBron also performed a throwback play from last year’s Finals (though he did that one during Game 4):
Pretty cool.  But I would have been more impressed if he had chosen to take on the challenge of locking down Durant and dogged him instead (at least, in the final quarter).

I can’t see the Cavs coming back from this.  Hence, the only legit source of suspense left in the Finals is who between KD and Steph will win Finals MVP.  With his incredible performance and the latter’s terrible one in Game 3, KD is now the favorite.  But it’s not yet out of Steph’s grasp.

They will likely try to outplay each other in Game 4 for it.  That should be fun.

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