Blogtable: What must Cleveland Cavaliers do to win Game 3?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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In your opinion, what’s the No. 1 thing the Cavs have to do to win Game 3 and get back in this series?
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Steve Aschburner: Get the sort of explosive performances from Kyrie Irving that the Cavaliers’ point guard exhibited in the earlier rounds, especially against Boston when he averaged 25.8 points and shot 62.2 percent, making half his 3-pointers. Irving’s defense-warping scoring was indispensable in Cleveland’s comeback from 1-3 in last year’s Finals. Without it, it’s hard to see LeBron James and Kevin Love picking up enough slack, with a few perky contributions from the team’s role players, to beat the Warriors.
Fran Blinebury: Put bodies on the Warriors with their defense. Get physical. As much as the Cavaliers like to say their game is all about running and pace, Golden State is simply better at it. They can’t win a track meet. In boxing parlance, they’ve got to work the body so the head will fall.
Shaun Powell: There are multiple issues, not just one, but given the rate the Warriors are assaulting the scoreboard, Cleveland must lock up either Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry. Easier said than done, of course, but the Cavs can’t keep up if both players are dropping 30. A change of strategy must apply to guarding Durant in particular, since LeBron can’t do it alone, and feels the strain when he also must generate points himself on the other end.
John Schuhmann: Get a big game from Kyrie Irving. The Cavs can only defend the Warriors so well, and with the way Golden State defends, it’s hard for the “other guys” to really get going. The Warriors’ switching scheme encourage you to play one-on-one basketball, so the best way for the Cavs to keep up is to take advantage of one-on-one matchups. Irving can do that and has done it against this particular opponent in the past, but shot just 40 percent in the first two games. If he can somehow be efficient at a high volume, Cleveland has a chance.
Sekou Smith: After two Finals losses, Cavs big man Tristan Thompson has eight (total!) points and eight (total!) rebounds. It’s clear to me that the Cavaliers don’t get back in this without Thompson playing more like himself. The Cavaliers have to do whatever it takes to unlock his game for Game 3. His ability to impact the game without having to focus on getting him shots is what makes him the true game changer they need. His activity around the rim on both ends is critical. We’ve seen what this series looks like for the Cavaliers without him playing at his usual level. It can’t happen again if the Cavaliers want this series to last beyond Friday night.
Ian Thomsen: The answer begins with scoring in transition before Golden State can set up its defense. The Warriors ranked No. 25 in fast-break points allowed this season, No. 28 in second-chance points allowed, No. 23 in points allowed in the paint, and No. 20 in points allowed off turnovers. Transition defense is the Warriors’ weakness. To beat them at their own game, the Cavs must score in high numbers efficiently, without turning the ball over. So you’re asking what they need to do? They need to score fast and in big numbers — but with precision. To play with reckless caution is a tough act to pull off.
Lang Whitaker: Figure out a way to slow down Golden State’s scoring avalanche. In the four games that Cleveland won in The 2016 Finals, the Warriors scored an average of 94.25 points in defeat, and never scored more than 101 in those four losses. In the first two games of The 2017 Finals, the Warriors have averaged 122.5 points per game. So Cleveland has to figure out a way to keep the Warriors from scoring so many points. Perhaps that means trying to limit possessions by slowing tempo? Trying to make Draymond Green beat you with jumpers? However you go about it, there’s no easy answer. Which is exactly why this Warriors team is so great.
MORE BLOGTABLE: Warriors’ offense or defense more impressive? | Who’s your early pick for Finals MVP?