CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers dominating Game 3 made it feel like the NBA Finals finally, really started.
But if Golden State wins Game 4, it goes back to feeling over very fast. The Cavaliers know that.
“We can’t afford to go down 3-1 and go into their building and give them confidence going back. So it’s a do-or-die game for us still,” LeBron James said Thursday.
An emotional LeBron helped lead the big Game 3 win — he told his teammates he would lead, they just needed to follow. They did — Kyrie Irving (32 points) and J.R. Smith (20) found their jump shots again, while Tristan Thompson was a beast on the glass.
The other thing that sparked the Cavaliers in Game 3 was a much more intense, much more focused, much more physical defense that knocked the Warriors back on their heels. That was led by LeBron on Draymond Green.
“I think not only myself, but everyone. Everyone extended their defense a little bit more,” LeBron said. “They’re such a great three-point shooting team that you have to extend your defense to start off with. More than that, they move the ball so, so well. And Draymond being one of those guys, one of their playmakers along with Steph, along with (Shaun) Livingston, along with (Andre) Iguodala that makes so many great passes above that, well beyond the three-point line. So, you’ve got to do a good job of trying to help the back-line defense by putting a little ball pressure on them.”
The Cavaliers put pressure on them, and the Warriors did not respond.
“I think we were extremely soft,” Draymond Green said. “We got bullied, punked, and any other word that you can find for it. That’s pretty much what it was, and that’s why the game went the way it went.”
Green, as he usually does, tried to take the blame for the loss, but much like the Warriors’ wins this series the loss was a complete team effort. What does Green want to do differently in Game 4? Wear LeBron down.
“I think I’ve got to be more active on the offensive end and kind of wear him out more,” Draymond Green said. “I don’t think I was that active or aggressive last night. So I’ll be more aggressive and like my chances.”
Game 4 is going to tell us a lot about both teams. How will the Warriors respond to getting thumped? (They did pretty well with that last series.) Can Cleveland sustain the intensity and focus they had in Game 3?
Game 4 also is going to tell us if we are going deep into this series or not.