CLEVELAND — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr talked in his pre-game media session about how much can change in a series when the venues are switched. Energy, emotion, it can all switch pretty fast. Especially when you have some of the best athletes in the world involved, and they’ve worked way too hard in their lives to try and get embarrassed on their home floor.
Sure enough, that’s what happened in Game 3 of the NBA Finals tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. Playing faster and lighter without Kevin Love (sitting due to the concussion he suffered in Game 2), the Cavs came out possessed, scoring the game’s first 9 points and hardly ever looking back as they cut the Warriors’ series advantage to 2-1.
Kyrie Irving, who had been criticized almost as much as Love after the first two games, was on FIRE the entire first quarter, which ended with his 16 points equaling the entire Warriors team as the Cavs took a 33-16 lead after the period.
As much of social media opined in real time, the defending champion Warriors hardly rolled over after the first, coming out strong in second quarter. The score was actually 51-43 at halftime, which seemed pretty good from the G-State angle, considering Stephen Curry had just TWO points at that juncture.
Unlike Games 1 and 2, however, the Cavs did NOT fold in the third quarter, staying aggressive and continuing to take advantage of any bigs the Warriors put on the floor (Kerr did not deploy his short “death lineup” much tonight). Curry at least showed some life in the third, but it was not enough as the Cavaliers maintained control of the game and led 89-69 after three.
The Cavs would not let up in the fourth, either. With LeBron James (who else?) leading the way at both ends of the floor, the hosts kept the proverbial foot down, forcing turnovers, pushing the pace and basically beasting on the visitors as the Quicken Loans Arena crowd got increasingly raucous.
By the time the game got inside the five-minute mark, the outcome had been determined. Both sides had pulled all their starters and fans started to head home. On the Cavs sideline, LeBron could feel great about his 32-point, 11-rebound, 6-assist game, which featured dunks, a three and a TON of emotion from the erstwhile League MVP.
He got ample support from Irving, who finished with 30 points and 8 dimes, and the mercurial JR Smith, who resurfaced to the tune of 20 points in 37 minutes.
For Kerr’s oddly uninspired Warriors, the Splash Brothers were the biggest disappointments, as Curry finished with 19 points on just 13 shots, and Klay Thompson—perhaps hampered by a thigh contusion in the first half—had only 10 points.
The Warriors’ best player tonight was actually Harrison Barnes, who went for 18 points and 8 rebounds and had a couple momentum-stopping (momentarily) jumpers earlier in the game.
The rejuvenated Cavs will host Game 4 back here on Friday night, and we will of course be in the house.