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Warriors vs. Cavaliers NBA Finals preview: Game 3 is Cleveland's last stand

The Warriors expect to receive the Cavaliers' best effort, at Quicken Loans Arena.

Curry weaves his way through several Cavaliers defenders.
Curry weaves his way through several Cavaliers defenders.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Golden State Warriors
Playoffs: 14-5 (3-4 ROAD)
Cleveland Cavaliers
Playoffs: 12-4 (7-0 HOME)
June 8, 2016
Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, OH
6:00 p.m. PDT

Radio: KGO 810AM/KTCT 1050AM
Blog Buddy: Fear the Sword
Projected Starters
Stephen Curry G Kyrie Irving
Klay Thompson G J.R. Smith
Draymond Green F LeBron James
Harrison Barnes F Kevin Love
Andrew Bogut
C Tristan Thompson
Key Injuries
No injuries reported
Kevin Love (concussion) — Questionable


It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Less than a week into the Finals, NBA soothsayers are already proclaiming the death of the 2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. And even Cleveland fans are feeling the negative vibes, as their Cavaliers lost the first two games of the series by 48 points, the largest points margin in the history of the NBA Finals.

But the Cavaliers do get the next two games at home, which means they're a couple of home victories away from tying this series up. In a sense, game three is the biggest game of the entire year. If the Cavs lose, they face an insurmountable 0-3 deficit. A win, and they're back in business for a long series.

The Cavaliers may have to get those wins without Kevin Love, who missed Tuesday's practice due to his concussion. Love has yet to begin the NBA concussion tests, so despite being listed as questionable, Love remains a likely scratch.

Tyronn Lue has sought to match Golden State's famous Small Ball Death Squad with an equally small lineup featuring Love and Lebron James at center and power forward, allowing the Cavs to hide Love on Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli. But Love hasn't been able to defend the rim well enough or defend the perimeter well enough to work. Predictably, the Cavs have failed to beat the Golden State Warriors at their own game.

But with one fewer big man body, the alternate strategy (going super big) becomes a bit more of a stretch. Timofey Mozgov has gone from surprisingly effective in 2015 to permanent-dog-house-resident following knee surgery, and Channing Frye isn't a traditional, rebounding big man.

The Cavaliers coaching staff has a few options to try, but all of them seem doomed to failure against a team like the Warriors -- the Cavs just don't have many (any?) exploitable match-up advantages.

The Dubs, on the other hand, enter Game 3 as the best road team in NBA history, and a seven game winning streak against the Cavaliers. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have yet to have the type of explosive scoring game they're known for, and the defense has absolutely silenced Cleveland dating back to last year's Finals. Plenty of reason for optimism in DubNation.

There's one fly in the ointment, however. These same Warriors are 0-4 in playoff game threes, dating back to last year's Finals. And in every one of those four games, the Warriors were playing their first road game of the series. But why?

We'll know if game three is a fluke or a curse Wednesday night. The Warriors are in line to receive the best effort the Cavaliers can muster, and if recent history is any indication, it might be enough to score an upset. The Dubs opened as just a one point favorite -- a surprisingly small figure for a team riding a plus-48 score right now.

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