The most telling thing about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ victory in game three of The NBA Finals was the reaction of their players.
There were no smiles. The Cavs knew they had to win that game to keep their chances alive in the series, so it was a very business-like attitude.
Even the usual bench reactions were subdued, meaning the players realized they didn’t accomplish anything. They know if they don’t win tonight, then it is likely the series won’t go further than Monday night in Oakland, and they would have to watch the Warriors celebrate again.
When asked about tonight’s contest, LeBron James reiterated what he said before Wednesday night’s game, that it is a must win game once again for the wine and gold.
Look, the Cavaliers aren’t going to win again by 33 points. This game will be a grinder, and the home team is going to need to keep playing aggressive and physical, matching the way the Warriors play, especially defensively.
We will continue to say that Golden State is going to foul you every time you take the ball into the paint. They slap arms, hit wrists, and bump and grind the lower part of the body whenever the ball goes inside.
Cleveland has to play through this. And they will also have to be prepared for the Warriors to ramp up the questionable screens they set offensively, because they need Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to start making shots.
That will be something to watch for early in the game tonight, because if they get going, it could be a long night for the wine and gold.
A big question for Cavs’ coach Tyronn Lue is what to do with Kevin Love, who should be able to play tonight after missing game three in the concussion protocol.
Our feeling is Lue should keep Richard Jefferson in the starting lineup and bring Love in off the bench. Despite what you read, Love is a quality player, and the Cavaliers need him.
For 28 NBA teams, Lue should start Love, without a doubt. But Golden State is unique, and Love gets exposed defensively against the Warriors’ starters. That’s no slight against Love, but Cleveland is probably better served being used off the bench tonight.
Lue could also use some offense from his bench, another reason using Love in that role makes sense.
JR Smith started finding the range once the series returned to The Q, and it would help greatly if tonight, Channing Frye was able to get it going and make some shots.
Frye has contributed because the Warriors have stayed close to him, which has opened up the paint for James and Kyrie Irving, but if he could hit a couple of shots, it would ease the burden on the starting five.
The bottom line for the Cavaliers is this. This is the biggest challenge yet for this basketball team. The Warriors are going to bring it tonight, hoping to be able to win the title Monday night on their home floor.
If the Cavs can pull it off, then perhaps the momentum shifts, and a little doubt is created in the Warrior locker room.
And they would have to think after two straight losses, that maybe Cleveland has figured something out to slow down the Golden State attack.
Tonight is the biggest game of the season, and probably the biggest game in franchise history.
Will the Cavs be able to pull it off?