Warriors remain favorites to win the title despite trailing Cavaliers 2-1 in NBA Finals


The Warriors were significantly favorited by oddsmakers to win the championship heading into their Finals matchup against the Cavaliers, and even though they now trail two games to one in the series following Tuesday night’s Game 3 loss, Vegas still sees Golden State as having the best chance to come away with this year’s title.

From Jeff Sherman of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook:

The margin by which the Warriors are favored has dipped, but it’s at least mildly surprising they remain the team predicted to win while trailing in the series.

The reason, perhaps, is that these games have all been so close. Games 1 and 2 could have gone either way, and despite falling behind by as many as 20 points in Game 3, Golden State had come back to cut it to one on a three from Stephen Curry with 2:45 left.

And, the reality remains that should the Warriors find a way to win Game 4, the series would be tied at two games apiece with two of the final three being played at Oracle Arena. If that scenario should unfold, you’d have to like their chances.

But the way LeBron James has his Cavaliers playing, I wouldn’t be willing to bet on it.

LeBron admits to being upset by third-place finish in MVP voting


Stephen Curry deserved to win the MVP this season. He was the best player on a Warriors team that put up a league-best 67 wins during the regular season, and more often than not, that’s how the award is decided.

James Harden had a season worthy of MVP consideration, too, so he came in second.

And the guy that most believe is the best player in the game today? LeBron James came away with the third-place finish.

After another stellar performance where he finished with 40 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and four steals while playing 46 of the game’s 48 minutes to put the Cavaliers up two games to one in the NBA Finals, LeBron admitted to being upset by where he ultimately landed in the MVP race.

“Every day I step out on the basketball floor, D-Wade, you know me, I want to be the MVP,” James said, in a conversation with Dwyane Wade that aired on ESPN. “For my teammates, for whoever is looking to me as a leader. I can’t say that I wasn’t upset finishing third, because I know what I bring to the table. I know how much I work — on my craft, and every single night.

“I can’t say I was happy about finishing third, but I didn’t need that extra motivation.”

LeBron has something motivating him that’s allowed him to play at a level that even those closest to him have never seen. As for the MVP, some of that is voter fatigue, because it gets old recognizing the same player for his greatness year after year, and sometimes the voters look to find a reason why others are more deserving.

But as we’re seeing in these Finals, the real MVP (as Kevin Durant might say) is LeBron, unquestionably so.

Klay Thompson calls Matthew Dellavedova’s late and-1 a ‘lucky’ shot


With 2:27 remaining in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors had cut a Cavaliers lead that was once at 20 points down to one, and seemed ready to continue their push to take control of this game, and potentially, the series.

But Matthew Dellavedova came up huge, just as he’s been doing for Cleveland the entire postseason.

Delly was absolutely mauled by Stephen Curry on a drive to the basket, but he somehow managed to float a high-arcing bank shot up and in as he stumbled to the floor.

The shot was indeed ridiculous, but Klay Thompson chose to characterize it in another way afterward.

From Ethan Strauss of ESPN.com:

After Game 3 in Cleveland, players were defensive, annoyed. After a reporter asked Draymond Green whether the players needed to “pump each other up,” the response wasn’t altogether inviting. …

There was angst over opportunities lost.

“I mean, that shot [Matthew Dellavedova] hit when we were down one when Steph fouled him, that was just lucky, man,” Klay Thompson said. “I guarantee he doesn’t practice that shot so, big player though, and we’re not going to let this game deflate us.”

The frustration in the Golden State locker room is understandable with the team now trailing 2-1 in the series. But the same can surely be said for some of Curry’s late-game looks, yet it’s unlikely that the Cavaliers would choose to discount any of those shots in the same way.

Stephen Curry, Warriors think they found something to build on in fourth quarter


Through three quarters Tuesday night, Stephen Curry just could not get shots to fall. Credit the Cavaliers defense, or say his shot was just off, the fact of the matter is he was 4-of-11 through 36 minutes of Game 3. But it was more than just Curry, the Cavaliers are being physical with Warriors players off the ball, and that is leading to some stagnation. The Cavaliers are getting back and taking away easy transition looks. They have taken the Warriors out of their comfort zone.

Add it all together the second straight game the Warriors were held to fewer than 60 points through three quarters — something that didn’t happen all season.

Then in the fourth quarter Curry woke up — he hit 5-of-8 from three, knocking down shots. Contested or not, no matter the degree of difficulty, the shots were falling.

“I think I found something when it comes to how I’m going to be able to attack their pick-and-rolls and even certain iso situations,” Curry said post game. “I’ll keep that in the memory bank going into Game 4, and hopefully it has a trickle over effect into the first quarter of the next game.”

Curry dropped 17, and the Warriors hung up a 36 spot in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough. Matthew Dellavedova and LeBron James made key plays down the stretch, and the Cavaliers hung on for the win, giving them a 2-1 series lead.

But the Warriors said they found something to build on, something they can carry over to Game 4 Thursday night.

“We became the aggressors,” Curry said. “Just like the last three minutes of Game 2. For us to win this series, we have to play that way the whole game. We have the depth, we have the talent to do it, whether we’re at home or on the road.”

“You have to make every possession like it’s your last possession,” Andre Iguodala said. “I feel like that’s the energy Cleveland’s playing with.”

Players and coach often speak of energy more than tactics, but that fourth quarter feature something new — David Lee setting the picks for Curry. Lee is an offensive threat in a way the struggling Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut have not been this series. According to John Schuhmann of NBA.com (using SportsVU cameras), when Lee screened Curry the team scored 20 points on 13 possessions (1.54 per possession), compared to 25 points on 40 possessions when anyone else was the screener for Curry (0.63 points per possession).

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said you can count on seeing more of Lee in Game 4, but what he liked was that his team showed some passion.

“I mean, you want to show some fight,” Kerr said. “And I thought in the third quarter we were hanging our heads a little bit, and it was good to see us bring the fight to the game. And that’s how we have to play the whole way through. It’s not just making shots. Obviously, that helps, but it’s fighting and it’s competing, and we’ve got to do that for 48 minutes.”

Iguodala used a better word than fight — execution. That is what the Warriors have lacked in their offense. The Cavaliers have made it difficult at every step, but in the face of that the Warriors stopped executing.

“It’s up to us to do the things that we haven’t been able to do on both ends of the floor. Executing small things. Small things are really biting us in the ass a little bit,” Iguodala said. “So loose balls they’ve gotten to every one of them. Offensive boards, second chance points, they seem to have a knack for those things, and we’ve got to come up with them…

“When we don’t get enough passes, we seem to rush even more. So we’ve just got to take our time, settle in, make them work a little bit more defensively. I think we found something there with David Lee that’s working for us. So he’s going to get some more minutes, I would like to think, going forward, and then other guys will see how effective he is and they’ll do the same. So we’ll have a steady diet of something we found that can work throughout the rest of the series.”

The Warriors had better hope so — and they need to use it and be aggressive from the opening tip of Game 4. The Warriors will either head home with the series tied and feeling confident or down 3-1 in a hole that, like the one they were in Tuesday night, they probably can’t climb out of.

Matthew Dellavedova finally ran out of gas – only after propelling Cavaliers to Game 3 win


In a time the Cavaliers are lifting the civic pride of Northeast Ohio, David Blatt paid Matthew Dellavedova the ultimate compliment.

“Delly’s the most Cleveland-like Australian I’ve ever met in my life,” the Cavaliers coach said.

Dellavedova, who scored 20 points in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 win over the Warriors, is embracing his adopted city – including taking advantage of its fine medical establishment.

Yup, Dellavedova literally left it all on the floor.

The Legend of Delly grows – from undrafted to the second-best starter on a team leading the NBA Finals in just two years.

Native Clevelanders have embraced him for the same reasons his teammates have.

“The guys love Delly, because he just plays with all his heart, and he cares first about the team and only about the team,” Blatt said. “And whether he’s playing nine minutes or 40 minutes, he’s going to give you everything you have. What’s not to love about the guy?”

Blatt added Dellavedova is Kyrie Irving’s favorite teammate. “Loves the guy,” the coach said.

Irving, on the mend, wasn’t around to confirm – and at one point that definitely wasn’t true. But the other Cavaliers were quick to sing Dellavedova’s praises tonight.

Tristan Thompson: “Every night, he’s going to come out and bust his tail. He’s going to play hard every possession.”

LeBron James: “He gives us that grit, that grit that we need. He gives us everything until the tank is empty. Then, he has a small little reserve tank that he continues to work through. He’s huge for us.”

Dellavedova isn’t the most talented player, but his style fits Cleveland’s needs in a starting point guard right now. He hounded Stephen Curry defensively, nearly constantly pestering the MVP. It wasn’t until the assignments changed that Curry got going, though his run continued once Dellavedova switched back onto him. Dellavedova also made a pair of 3-pointers on assists from LeBron James.

LeBron will do the heavy lifting. He just needs teammates who complement him – who exert enough energy on defense to allow him to conserve for offense, who make the opens shots he creates.

That’s Dellavedova.

Dellavedova has started two games in the Finals, and he’s led all starters in plus-minus both times at +13. In 39 minutes tonight, he also added five rebounds and four assists to his 20 points.

“He’s had games like this. You may be surprised, because you don’t follow us all season. But he’s had some games like this,”Blatt said. “And I don’t even know that it’s a matter of confidence with Matt. I just think he plays as hard as he can every day. He plays right. He’s not afraid. He plays courageously.”

It’s even gotten to the point where a national audience can recognize Game 3 as a quintessential Dellavedova game.

He threw an alley-oop:

He committed an arguably dirty play:


He made a ridiculous/lucky shot:


He dove for a crucial loose ball:

“He’ll give you whatever he has,” Blatt said, “and you can’t ask for any more than that.”

But the Cavaliers will.

They’ve built this series lead in large part because of Dellavedova, and the options are slim behind him without Irving. They need Dellavedova healthy in Game 4.

Maybe that’s actually the ultimate compliment.