The Golden State Warriors have taken a 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals. But if you come to think of it, the Dubs haven’t done anything yet except hold court. Unless the Warriors win one on the road, the Cavaliers are still in good shape. The next game though could be the most crucial in the series.
As Game 3 shifts to Cleveland, the Cavs will be looking to defend their home floor just as the Warriors protected theirs in the first two games of the series. A win puts the Cavs back in the thick of the fight while a loss will put them in a 0-3 hole which no team in the history of the NBA playoffs has ever come back from.
Golden State has all the momentum heading into Game 3 but the Cavs will enter the game with the confidence that it will be played in front of their fans. Let’s take a look at the odds, our preview and pick for Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals:
The Cavs have to slow down the Warriors because Golden State has outscored them 70-33 in transition points through the first two games of the 2018 NBA Finals, including a huge 37-16 advantage in Game 2. To think that the Dubs average 21.9 transition points per game in the current postseason, the Warriors are literally running out the gym.
The Warriors’ average FG% in transition is 56.3% but in the 2018 NBA Finals, they have made 27 out of 36 ( 75% ) field goals in transition. The Cavaliers have scored just 15 out of 23 ( 65% ) of similar shots but the point is that the Dubs are scoring so easily in transition. If the Cavs want to slow them down, they’ve got to get back and defend the Warriors’ transition offense.
In our previous previews, we talked about the Cavs having to withstand Golden State’s third quarter storms. In Game 1, the Cavs were outscored by just 6 points in the third quarter. In Game 2, they outscored Golden State 34-31. So far, Cleveland has done an excellent job of weathering the Warriors’ third-quarter storms. But surprisingly, that has hardly mattered for Golden State.
During the regular season, the Warriors were 57-11 when they win the third quarter and only 14-18 ( including 1-2 in the postseason before Game 1 ) when they don’t. But even if the Cavs won the third quarter of Game 2, the Dubs still won the game. That’s because, in Game 2, the Warriors outscored the Cavs by nine points each in the second and fourth quarters. In Game 2, it was Steph Curry who led the Warriors with 16 points in the final period.
No question, the best player for the Warriors so far in the 2018 NBA Finals is Stephen Curry.
Curry opened the playoffs on the injured list but the longer this postseason has gone, he’s gotten better and better. After missing Round 1, Curry averaged 19.6 points per game and 3.0 three-pointers per game. In the Conference Finals, Curry increased his numbers to 25.0 points per game and 3.9 three-pointers per contest.
The Warriors’ two time MVP is averaging 31 points, 6.5 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1 steal per game in the first two games of the 2018 NBA Finals. Not only that, Chef Curry has been cooking from behind the three-point line in the Finals. In just two games, he’s made 14 out of 28 ( 50% ) three-pointers, including a record 9 triples in Game 2. If the Cavaliers hope to get back in the series, they have to at least limit Curry. He’s not only making three-pointers, he’s killing the Cavs with insane baskets.
While Curry has looked like the Finals MVP for the Warriors, he isn’t the best player in the finals. That has got to go to LeBron James who has been sensational since the start of the playoffs. In the first two games of the 2018 NBA Finals, James is even pushing it to another level, averaging a jaw-dropping 40.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 10.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. That’s almost superhuman.
If King James keeps up this pace, and the Warriors would go on to win the title, you could make a case for him ( even as a longshot ) as Finals MVP. The only player to be named Finals MVP in a losing team is Jerry West in 1969. But West took the Lakers to a seventh game before losing to the Celtics. James’ Cavaliers aren’t expected to go the distance with the Warriors, not with the kind of support he is getting from his teammates.
James had been doing it all for Cleveland, literally. Not only is he scoring and rebounding for the Cavaliers, he is also the team’s primary playmaker. But as a playmaker, he can only go as far as making the right plays. His teammates also have to reciprocate him by making their shots. And they have not, so far in the first two games of the Finals – especially from behind the three-point line.
The Cavs are shooting just 8-32 ( 25% ) from the three-point area off James’ passes, including 5 out of 16 ( 31% ) on uncontested shots. Kevin Love is 1-9, J.R. Smith is 2-8 and Jeff Green 1-6 off Bron’s passes. Against a team whose main weapon is its three-point shooting, the Cavs need to hit their threes to make this series interesting.
Everyone’s talking about George Hill’s missed free throw in Game 1 and J.R. Smith’s big mental error after getting the offensive rebound off Hill’s miss but one of the disappointments for Cleveland in the first two games of the NBA Finals is Kyle Korver who has taken just a total of 6 shots, including 4 three-pointers.
Korver has failed to score in double digits in the Cavs’ last five playoff games. After averaging 14.5 points during Cleveland’s sweep of the Toronto Raptors and scoring 14 points each in the Cavs’ Game 3 & 4 win over the Celtics, Korver has struggled big time. In the first two games of the Finals, he’s made just one three-pointer and scored a total of four points. Knowing Korver’s value as seen in the Toronto series, Tyronn Lue must find a way to get him involved in the offense in Game 3.
Although the Warriors have been fantastic in Games 1 and 2, those games were played at the Oracle Arena. Outside their home floor, the Warriors have struggled in the NBA Finals. Since 2015, Golden State has a record of 4-4 on the road in the NBA Finals. Their high scoring offense has been held to 104.0 points per game on the road while their defense has given up 107.1 points per outing. That’s good news for the Cavs.
Teams that take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals have a 29-4 record all-time. But don’t tell that to the Cleveland Cavaliers as they are no strangers to that deficit in the Finals. Cleveland is the last team to overcome a 0-2 deficit to win the NBA title. In fact, they came back from a 1-3 deficit to beat the Warriors in 2016, the season when the Warriors won a record 73 regular season games.
If there’s a game where the Cavs have the most chance of winning, it is Game 3. That’s because of the adrenaline rush they Cavs will experience the moment they play in their home court for the first time in the series. Expect Cleveland to go for the early knockout and expect the Dubs to have some tense moments early. If the Warriors recover, it’s going to be a good game. If not, it’s going to be a blowout.
The Cavs are 5-0 SU in their last 5 games at home. They are also 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in Cleveland. They have also covered 8 of their last dozen games at home while being an underdog of five points or more. On the other hand, the Warriors are 9-11 ATS on the road while being favored by at least five points. I expect the Cavs role players to have their best game in Game 3. The crowd should help will the team to victory. We’re picking the Cavs to win Game 3.
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