Game 3 – NBA Finals
Warriors lead 2-0
Time: 8 PM (CT)
Spread: GSW -4
Odds c/o Bovada
The Golden State Warriors find itself in familiar territory, but writing the Cleveland Cavaliers off may prove to be a grave mistake.
Much like last season, the Warriors won Games 1 and 2 on its homecourt. Much like last year, fans are writing the Cleveland Cavaliers off, forgetting the historical lesson from LeBron James last season when he rallied his Cavs from a 3-1 deficit to eventually emerge as the 2016 NBA Champions.
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We should not be so ignorant as to ignore that lesson, and NBA oddsmakers are less prone to do so. The Cavaliers enter Game 3 as four-point underdogs on its homecourt. It should be expected that Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue makes the necessary adjustments to foster a much more competitive game in Cleveland.
The Cavs will host Games 3 and 4 before the series hits the 1-1-1 stretch in alternating sites for the series’ final three games (if necessary, we must add). But here at Maddux Sports we are not writing off James and the gang, and tonight is likely going to be the first nail-biter of what thus far has been a lopsided series.
Granted, there is the argument that the Warriors are simply a better team than they were a year ago, a year in which they set an NBA record with 73-wins. The Warriors, of course, added one of the league’s premier talents in Kevin Durant, and he has been sensational through the series’ first two games. Durant recorded a triple-double in the Warriors lopsided 132-113 win in Game 2, and his rebounding has been instrumental in this series thus far with Mike Brown opting to play a true center (Zaza Pachulia) so infrequently (just 13 minutes in Game 2).
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The Warriors “death lineup” has been frequently featured, with Brown choosing to play the 6’5” Draymond Green at center, against a Cavaliers lineup devoid of offensive post talents in its own right. While Green has certainly been a light factor statistically, he has enabled the Dubs to keep its best five talents on the court, and his defensive impact has been understated as usual.
Green is capable of switching onto and covering all five positions, and the flexibility he gives the Warriors’ defense cannot be overstated. Despite Golden State’s up-tempo game, the Dubs are a strong defensive team on a per-possession basis and Green is instrumental in making their frequent defensive switches possible.
Green also will be instrumental in slowing James, who has been good, but not great through two games. James could come out on a mission to show this series is not over, though, which will make Green perhaps the most important player on the court for the Dubs, at least on defense. His strength, speed and anticipation make him one of the few players in the league capable of giving James problems.
LBJ had 29 points on a highly-efficient 12 of 18 shooting night in Game 2, while also recording 14 assists and 11 rebounds. That triple-double potential is there every game with James, and if the Dubs are to leap out to a never-surmounted 3-0 lead it will be on the heels of Green’s defense. It is absolutely the most crucial matchup to keep an eye on in Game 3.
Outside of Green, Stephen Curry has looked more like the player he was throughout last season’s MVP campaign. Curry is averaging 30 points per game in this Finals, and he is knocking down five threes per night on average. Kyrie Irving may be an offensive juggernaut, but he is not known for his defensive prowess, and Curry has been able to expose him fully.
That said, Curry is one of the toughest defensive draws due to the Dubs stacked lineup and a system which fully exploits his never-before-seen shooting range. Irving, like Green, will be a defensive focal point for the Cavaliers, and it may be that Iman Shumpert draws more minutes as the Cavs best defensive guard. Shumpert played 22 minutes in Game 2, but he was just 1 of 6 from the field.
So, will Tyronn Lue choose to go with Irving for the offense or opt to play Shumpert in an attempt to slow Curry?
Whatsoever the case, Deron Williams is unlikely to factor that big. The once 20/10 stalwart scored no points in Game 2 and missed all five of his field goals. If the Cavs are to climb back into this series with a must-win Game 3, it will be requisite that it gets better play from its bench. The Cavaliers reserve guards were highly ineffective, and even one-time All-Star Kyle Korver factored lightly with just four field goal attempts (eight points).
Lue certainly has the adjustments to make, but it will not be anywhere near easy against one of the most loaded rosters in NBA history. That said, it is difficult to win three-straight games in an NBA Finals and the Dubs may have some sense of false security after winning Game 2 so big. We expect the Cavaliers to edge Golden State out with a one or two point victory, but that would still be a five-to-six point swing in the GSW -4 odds listed by NBA oddsmakers.