- PG: Stephen Curry
- SG: Klay Thompson
- SF: Harrison Barnes
- PF: Draymond Green
- C: Andrew Bogut
Game 3 Pick & Preview of 2016 NBA Finals: Cavs vs Warriors
For the second game in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers did all they could to hang with the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. For the second game in a row, they collapses in the third quarter and got trounced.
After the Dubs rode their bench to an easy game one win, many expected LeBron James and co. to come out determined and maybe even a little bitter in game two, but that intensity only lasted about a quarter and a half, while the game remained close only a little into the third quarter.
Stanza three of these NBA Finals arrives on Wednesday, and with the way things have gone, it wouldn’t shock anyone to see the Warriors rout the Cavs again and go up, 3-0. That result would surely put an end to this series, and make Friday’s game four a likely broom calling for the defending champs.
Of course, this is still a LeBron James-led team and they’ll get their shot on their home floor for the next two games. Cleveland was dominant at Quicken Loans Arena during the regular season, after all, and it’s hard to imagine them playing much worse with their backs against the wall.
Vegas isn’t playing games with this third game, either, suggesting that the location shift could change things for Cleveland. We’ll certainly find that out on Wednesday night in game three.
Golden State Warriors Team Preview
The Warriors really didn’t take too kindly to Cleveland’s initial defensive strategy to start this series, which was to suffocate Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and make the Warriors’ supporting cast beat them.
The first part worked, but it back-fired badly, as the Dubs have shot 49% or better in each of the first two games, with both Curry and Klay either passing the ball away, acting as a decoy or watching from the bench. Cleveland’s defensive strategy has played directly into Golden State’s “share the ball” offensive philosophy, which has proven through the first two wins that it cannot be stopped if the opposing defense is focused more on parts, rather than the whole.
As for the Warriors specifically, they clearly leaned hard on the home court advantage and pulled everything they could out of their bench, but they also flat out played fantastic team basketball in these first two games. Offensively, they’ve assisted on 26 and 29 buckets in the last two games, while defensively they’ve played hard-nosed defense, allowing the Cavs to connect on no more than 38% of their shots in either game.
One of the biggest issues Golden State is presenting is their small ball lineup, which has torn up the Cavs thanks to a so-far MVP-like run by big man, Draymond Green. Green has eradicated Kevin Love’s impact on either end and helped with teammate Andre Iguodala to make life a living hell for a driving LeBron James.
The Warriors could see an increase in turnovers in game three and a dip in defensive effectiveness, but so far they are executing more than well enough on both ends to end this series early. They are not as good on the road as they are at home, but they still lost just seven road games during the regular season and four more during the playoffs.
|6/5/16||VS Cavaliers||Win 110-77|
|6/2/16||VS Cavaliers||Win 104-89|
|5/30/16||VS Thunder||Win 98-88|
|5/28/16||at Thunder||Win 108-101|
|5/26/16||VS Thunder||Win 120-111|
Cleveland Cavaliers Team Preview
To say the Cavs have their backs against the wall going into game three is a grave understatement. The Cavs looked absolutely lost on both ends for long stretches in the first two games and if those two performances are any indication, there is a very good chance they will get swept in this series.
That obviously puts them in a tough spot for game three, but the silver lining could be that they’re back in front of their home crowd, where they went 33-8 during the regular season. There is no denying that new life tends to breathe through the Cavs when playing at Quicken Loans Arena, as they seem to have more confidence, they execute better offensively and they bring a more dialed in defensive intensity.
This series shifting to Cleveland for two games could be exactly what they need, sure, but the Cavs still have a ton of work to do.
For one, they may need to make a decision on Kevin Love. Love sustained a concussion in game two and may not be ready to play, but aside from that, the Cavs may want to start thinking about benching him or at least limiting his role more. He was fine on offense in game one, but he regressed in game two and continues to be a serious defensive liability.
Along with a call on Love, Cleveland could also opt to shake things up elsewhere. Moving guys like Love and J.R. Smith to the bench could give their awful bench scoring a much-needed boost, while Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye or Tristan Thompson could slide in as starters and still allow the first team offense to thrive with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving getting more aggressive.
- PG: Kyrie Irving
- SG: J.R. Smith
- SF: LeBron James
- PF: Kevin Love
- C: Tristan Thompson
Of course, that’s if Shumpert can play the type of defense J.R. Smith was and if Frye can avoid being as much or more of a liability as Love was. If that’s a fear, the Cavs could also consider turning to Timofey Mozgov, who actually had success against these Warriors in last year’s Finals. That logic really works into Cleveland actually trying to dictate this series with their own lineup, too. So far they’ve tried to run with Golden State’s small lineup and that clearly hasn’t worked.
Let’s get a little more bold here. If Tyronn Lue doesn’t make one of these changes or some big change, the Cavs are done. They cannot run and survive with Golden State’s small lineup. They need to find a way to enforce their will and get that “death lineup” off the floor, or combat it with size, length and strength.
That’s not a sure fire way to win game three or stay in this series, but the Cavs are running out of options, and more specifically, they’re running out of time.
|6/5/16||at Warriors||Lost 110-77|
|6/2/16||at Warriors||Lost 104-89|
|5/27/16||at Raptors||Win 113-87|
|5/25/16||VS Raptors||Win 116-78|
|5/23/16||at Raptors||Lost 105-99|
Warriors at Cavaliers Game 3 Preview
Going into this series, it felt like it was going to hinge a lot on pace. Golden State boasts the most explosive offense in the entire league, they’re one of the fastest paces and once they get going with their small ball lineup, it’s extremely tough to track them defensively or get past them on offense.
Cleveland is one of the slowest teams in the league in pace, so right away you can see the matchup problem. Throw in two very weak defenders in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and their grind it out method doesn’t even fly with the Dubs, who dish that defense right back. And once things start unraveling, that’s where Golden State exploits all of your defensive holes and makes you pay.
|6/5/16||Warriors 110, Cavaliers 77|
|6/2/16||Warriors 104, Cavaliers 89|
|1/18/16||Warriors 132, Cavaliers 98|
|12/25-15||Warriors 89, Cavaliers 83|
|6/16/15||Warriors 105, Cavaliers 97|
|6/14/15||Warriors 104, Cavaliers 91|
|6/11/15||Warriors 103, Cavaliers 82|
|6/9/15||Cavaliers 96, Warriors 91|
|6/7/15||Cavaliers 95, Warriors 93 (OT)|
|6/4/15||Warriors 108, Cavaliers 100 (OT)|
There is no guarantee Golden State’s first two games have already won them the Finals, but only three teams in history have overcome a 2-0 hole and none of them were facing the Warriors. None of them looked so mismatched once the big games arrived, either.
The silver lining for Cleveland is they’re at home and they have the crowd backing them. They know if they can just put it all together at home, they can even this thing back up at 2-2. They also know that Love, Irving and pretty much everyone else not named LeBron James (and heck, even him for stretches) have played pretty terribly.
If everything shifts, the Cavs could have the edge, and that’s probably the main reason why Vegas seems so undecided with the weak spread.
Then again, we also haven’t seen either Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry drop even 20 points in this series. That can’t possibly last forever, either.
|Win/Loss||73-9 (34-7 away)||57-25 (33-8 at home)|
Recommended Game 3 Bet
The faith in Cleveland is absolutely waning and the spread isn’t fun, but one huge thing to consider here is that the Cavs haven’t lost at home yet in these playoffs. Perhaps a road win by the Warriors is the final blow before this series is up, but LeBron James and co. have to find a way to be better than what we’ve seen through the first two games.
Cleveland has disappointed against the spread on the year and obviously so far in the Finals, but we’ll give them one more shot in a game they absolutely have to win.
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