It’s a familiar feeling: for the third consecutive year, the Golden State Warriors hold a 2-0 edge in the NBA Finals as they head into Cleveland Cavaliers with everything at stake.
This has gone both ways historically, of course — if LeBron James and the Cavs can resurrect their moribund hopes, then the series could get real interesting, real quick. The Warriors have (hopefully) learned their lessons though, and know they can break the Cavs already thinly-stretched hope - likely sending LeBron James packing to a new team and ending this four-year Finals pattern.
Warriors at Cavaliers - Game 3
Wednesday, June 6; 6:00 p.m.
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
LISTEN: 95.7 The Game
Will Iguodala be back? Will Rodney Hood make an appearance?
Outsiders may not have an adequate appreciation of the importance of Andre Iguodala, but DubNation knows well just exactly how critical of a team component he is. It’s been over two weeks since Iguodala took a James Harden knee to the side of his left knee. While the Warriors have managed just fine in his absence, a timely return would be very welcome.
While he probably wouldn’t play many minutes, he is one of our best options on LeBron James, who has been killing the Warriors with an efficient all-around game. Beyond that, Iguodala’s return will help ameliorate our wing shortage, and free up Draymond Green to wander the paint to freely wreak havoc as he does so well.
On the Cavs side, they are likely to look deeper into their bench for some sort of answer — in this case that answer is (apparently?) Rodney Hood. Hood, a sweet shooting, rangy wing seems custom-built for this series, but this is the same guy who fell out of coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation after not being that good... Then, in the sort of drama that seems to follow the Cavs everywhere, Hood refused to come off the bench in a first round blowout win against the Indiana Pacers. Hood hasn’t seen a minute of meaningful action since.
Well, apparently time has softened Lue’s stance. Either that, or it was watching his shooters struggle mightily as Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Korver have struggled in the first two games, shooting 3-of-13 and 8-of-25, respectively. JR Smith has been so bad he got ironic “MVP” chants at Oracle.
Hood may not be a world-beater, but he’s a 37% three-point shooter over his career, and hung 26 points on the Warriors earlier this season (while he was still playing with the Utah Jazz). I don’t know how much he can move the needle, but the Cavs can ill-afford to leave any potential answer untested after taking a 19-point mouth punch from the Warriors in Game 2.
If you can’t beat ‘em... beat ‘em up?
As Apricot pointed out recently, the Warriors are absolutely shredding the Cavs’ defense right now. Cleveland has been focused on perimeter defense, but they’ve fared poorly. Not only have they not done well at limiting threes, but also their over-emphasis has repeatedly opened up easy opportunities near the rim:
The root of the CLE defensive breakdowns is bad switching. CLE can’t fix Curry being Steph, and can’t fix their disorganization in transition defense. But they can choose whether or not to handle screens by switching... Now, in the Finals, the Warriors have freshly evolved their offense to beat Houston’s elite level switching and you can see in the video they applied those EXACT tactics and sliced up the Cavaliers. Beyond the Curry three-pointers, these tactics created open layups and jump shots throughout.
Make no mistake here, the Warriors are destroying the Cavs. After a close Game 1, they laid a solid 19-point beatdown on them just a few days ago. Right now, the Warriors are shooting an effective field goal percentage of .622, AS A TEAM. For comparison, the Dubs led the entire NBA this season shooting .564. It’s hard to overstate how amazing this is. According to the gospel of the Four Factors, shooting accounts for about 40% of a game’s win probability. If the Cavs can’t figure out a way to stop conceding open layups and dunks, an army of Rodney Hoods, riding in on chariots shaped like LeBron James couldn’t save this team.
What are the Cavs going to do? In a move that probably warms the flabby underfolds of Charles Barkley’s heart, I expect the Cavs to get rough.
“Physicality,” Lue said. “I think you’ve got to be physical because they slip out (of screens) a lot and put you in some binds when they slip out. But if we’re physical into the body and pushing up the slips, then we can get underneath them and take that away. So the most important thing is physicality.”
After listening to the droning, incessant whining of Cavs and Rockets fans blaming the refs (while smoothly ignoring their own team’s failings) Warriors fan can expect some less than friendly whistles on the road. Cleveland won game 4 last year in a flurry of made three pointers, and a metric ton of foul trouble for the Warriors’ starters. In that game, the Cavs shot 26 free throws ... by half time. Stephen Curry, Durant, Green and David West all had two fouls at halftime that night; Iguodala and Thompson both had three as the Warriors laid down early and got demolished before putting the Cavs away in five games.
Tristan Thompson already got away with punching Draymond Green in the face with a basketball; if the refs allow off ball contact early, it could be a long, grueling night for Golden State.
I had Warriors in five, so I guess that means they’d have to lose one of the next two games. I’ll guess that this one is a win. The memory of that blown 3-1 lead will serve as the reminder that the Dubs need to keep their foot on the gas.
Warriors 121 - Cavs 119