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There will be a time in these NBA
There will be a time in these NBA
Finals when the shots fall for the Cleveland Cavaliers, their players remember the score and big calls go their way. When that happens the
series can start.Indeed,
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you would be mistaken if you think the finals are over just because of JR Smith’s blunder in Game 1 or because a blizzard of Stephen Curry three-pointers buried the Cavaliers in Game 2. Yes, the first two games were bad for the Cavaliers
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but a couple of losses on the road do not end any hope of winning
a title. Not yet.
The Warriors are a great offensive machine but the Cavs are the more rugged defensive team. They can knock the Warriors around below the rim, frustrating shooters and making the pretty look ugly. “They’re a team that’s great at home,” Golden State’s Klay Thompson said on Sunday night.
And the Cavs will be on home turf for the next two games. Lost in the
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Smith debacle and Curry’s shooting is the fact that Cleveland actually won half of the eight regulation quarters that have been played so far in Golden State’s arena. They terrified the Warriors for much of the first game behind LeBron James’s 51 points, turning their misses into second shots with 19 offensive rebounds, compared to the Warriors’ four. Had the charge call made against Kevin Durant late in the game not been reversed, the Cavaliers probably would have won Game 1.
When you look past the flash of Golden State’s fourth quarter on Sunday,
in which Curry seemed unable to miss, this has been a very close series. It may be about to get a lot closer.Just two years ago, Golden State
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were in the same position: up 2-0 in the finals after crushing victories over the Cavs. That year, the Cavaliers came back, winning Game 3 and eventually overcoming a 3-1 deficit to take the championship. And while beating the Warriors in seven games may be too much against a team loaded with some of the best players in the league, Cleveland are capable of winning the next two and making this a great finals series; probably the last between these two teams.
After Sunday’s loss, LeBron James talked about “being uncomfortable,” this next week, that the Cavs can’t simply expect to win just because they are playing at home. But there was also something revealing in his words, something that cuts to the heart of Cleveland’s ability to get this far in the playoffs, despite facing elimination against Milwaukee and Boston. The Cavs are better when they are uncomfortable. They play best when they are doubted.
Smith, who was taunted with chants of “MVP” by the Golden State fans for his error at the end of Game 1, had just five points and one rebound on Sunday, but seemed unfazed as he spoke afterward, knowing this is still a long series. He pointed out that Cleveland’s players did a poor job of switching on screens to defend Curry and the Warriors’ other shooters. Such lapses probably won’t happen on their home court.
In 2016, the Cavaliers blasted Golden State in Game 3, winning by 30 points. And while the Warriors came back to win Game 4, a tone had been set – one that carried through the rest of the series. Yes, that was a better Cavs team – they had Kyrie Irving – and Durant had yet to join Golden State, but many of the same players remain on both teams. The thought of what happened then lingers.
And while the brilliant Irving has left the Cavs, they are stronger in some areas compared to 2016. Incredible as it is to say, James is playing at a higher level this season while Kevin Love, who looked lost for much of the 2016 series, has been quietly efficient with 43 points and 23 rebounds over the first two games. His dominance has been missed in the Smith and Curry storylines but it will probably play bigger now that the series moves to Cleveland.
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