Cleveland stormed to the early lead and never looked back, albeit with a bumpy 4th quarter.
The Cavs used tough defense out of the gate, forcing a Steve Kerr timeout. Thanks to good close-out D at the end of the first, Cleveland maintained a small edge.
LeBron James stated in his postgame his team’s intention of turning the game into a gritty, defensive, Eastern Conference affair. With nothing going for Golden State the rest of the first half, James used the opportunity to find James Jones for a buzzer-beating halftime three and a seven point lead.
The key for Cleveland is to hound the Warriors on 3-point attempts. With the strength, size, and athleticism to cover the perimeter, the Cavaliers played their best basketball of the series in the 3rd quarter. That intensity translated to their inside defense, too, where attempt after attempt was denied at the rim.
The lead mounted to almost 20 points by quarter’s end. James was decisively shooting at the other end, sinking difficult but in control fadeaways.
It was not hard to see Cleveland’s fans had never experienced an NBA Finals win. Their energy was exploding with every Cavaliers bucket in the third. However, everyone seemed to start scoreboard watching in the 4th. The defense let up, and a couple of 3s creaked their way back in. Finally, the lead crept below ten and David Blatt took timeout.
It’s the same case of close-out jitters that crippled Cleveland at the end of game two. Some hustling plays by “The Scotsman” Delladova and big shots by James were necessary to finish it off.
The Cavs can learn a lot from how far back the Warriors almost came. A killer-instinct is a part of completing the mission, and it can’t be overlooked. Cleveland is lucky they have LeBron.