Cavaliers defend home court with win over Warriors
In what LeBron James called “a must-win game” for the Cleveland Cavaliers, his team responded with a 120-90 thrashing of the Golden State Warriors to bring the series to 2-1.
Kyrie Irving, after drawing criticism for his lackluster performance in the first two games, took it upon himself to establish the pace of the game early for his team. He went 7-9 from the field and 2-2 from deep, and on his way to 16 points and three assists in the first quarter.
Richard Jefferson, having a throwback performance in this year’s finals, was inserted into the starting lineup after Kevin Love was announced inactive due to a concussion. Jefferson’s new position brought much-needed energy to a starting unit that has looked overwhelmed and desperate in the first two games.
Although he finished with only nine points in 33 minutes, Jefferson grabbed eight rebounds and added two steals.
Facing a 17-point deficit at the end of the first quarter, the Warriors fought back in the second. Klay Thompson turned in a better performance after returning from a leg injury in the first.
Thompson and teammate Harrison Barnes joined forces to finish with 17 points.
At the half, the Warriors were within striking distance — especially for a team that can score points in bunches, trailing the Cavaliers by just 8 points.
In the third, Stephen Curry finally started hitting shots after only scoring two points in the first half. The Cavaliers nonetheless held off his flurry by shooting 75 percent from the field and scoring 38 points in the frame.
As the game appeared to be out of reach, the Cavaliers clamped down even harder on defense. They held the Warriors to just 26 percent shooting from the field in the fourth quarter, sealing the win.
Keys to Game 4
Although the game was out of reach for three quarters, the most troubling statistic is that the Cavaliers’ reserves only collected three points during the first three quarters, before scoring 12 in “garbage time.”
Going forward, the bench needs to be more productive if the Cavaliers want to come back and win the series.
Even if Kevin Love is available for Game 4, Cavs’ head coach Tyronn Lue should stick to his small-ball lineup featuring Richard Jefferson. The Cavaliers’ bench needs more scoring, and Love could turn into a first option instead of being the third — sometimes fourth — choice as he has been.
Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr should return to the “lineup of death” that turned last year’s series around for his team and has given the Cavaliers fits on defense.
Despite a solid third quarter, Curry was nonexistent in the first half and needs to shoot the ball more than five times in a half in the next game.