The Golden State Warriors took a commanding three games to none lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night with a stunning late-game run to steal a game 118 to 113 on the road, and take a commanding lead that no team has ever come back from in the NBA Playoffs.
Both the Warriors and Cavaliers knew coming into tonight’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals that a win could have significant implications on the series moving forward. If Cleveland were to have won, they could have swung the momentum of the series back in their favor. However, the Warriors managed to maintain their perfect record in this postseason.
Great First Half Fight
The Cavaliers looked like a much different team than what we have seen in the first half of this game, feeding off of the energy of their home court, and explosive offense from both teams made for a tightly contested and enjoyable first half.
Warriors' Klay Thompson and Cavaliers' J.R. Smith, who have both been struggling in this series, started strong for their respective teams. Thompson scored 16 points for the Warriors behind four three-pointers, and Smith added six steady points for Cleveland. LeBron James also put on an impressive showing in the first, tying Thompson for a 16-point first quarter. James attacking was a key for Cleveland, as noted by coach Tyronn Lue in the pre-game press conference.
Although Cleveland was able to keep it close for a majority of the first, the Warriors, who were locked in from beyond the arch, broke the Finals record for three-pointers made in a quarter with nine, allowing them to create some distance which led to a 39 to 32 lead at the end of the high-scoring first quarter.
The Cavaliers were not discouraged by Golden State’s late quarter onslaught, however, as they entered the second quarter as focused as they had started the game. Cleveland managed to steady the pace early in the second as they chipped away at the Warrior lead behind James’ incredible performance, ending the first half with 27 points on 78 percent shooting. Kyrie Irving added the Cleveland comeback with an additional 17.
The Warriors, however, continued their impressive scoring run as Thompson upped his halftime total to 21, and former MVP's Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry added 16 and 14 points respectively. The high scoring efforts of both teams led to a 67 to 61 score at the half.
Critical Third Quarter
The third quarters in this series have been pivotal, as in both Games 1 and 2, Golden State extended massive leads with huge runs right out the gate to start the second half, and Cleveland needed a sharp response to ensure they could stay in the game.
Behind the continually aggressive attack of James and Irving, the Cavaliers were able to stick with the Warriors in the early going of the third quarter, and eventually, they were able to take their first second-half lead of the series. Curry was able to keep the Warriors within striking distance, but Cleveland’s efforts at attacking the basket and kicking out to the three-point line for players like Smith, who continued to shoot well through the game, allowed Cleveland to build their lead to seven in the third, their greatest lead of the series. The Cavaliers ended the third with a 94 to 89 advantage over the Warriors going into the final quarter of the game.
Cleveland did not let their foot off the gas in the fourth, maintaining a constant lead over the Warriors through a majority of the quarter. This again can be attributed to the impeccable performances of James and Irving, which not only got the Warriors into some foul trouble, but also created greater opportunities for the rest of the team. Unfortunately for Cleveland, however, Durant found his range in a late game stretch to pull the Warriors close to the Cavaliers, and the remarkable run was capped off with a game-sealing three-pointer by Durant, who ended the game with 31 points.
Thompson added 30 in a great bounce back game, and Curry scored 26 points with 13 rebounds to round out the leading effort of the Warriors. James put up 39 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists along with Irving’s 38 points, Cleveland simply could not hold off this Warrior team’s strong shooting and incredible defense.
Game 4 Details
Looking ahead, the Warriors will aim to complete a perfect postseason run on Friday, June 10, as they return to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 4. The Cavaliers will try to fend off another crushing defeat, in hopes of bouncing back in a way we have never seen a team do before.