Stephen Curry gave worldwide notice that his NBA Finals scoring slump is officially over, with an electrifying 17-point 4th quarter in which he sunk five of seven 3-point shots. But Steph’s phenomenal comeback charge was still too little, as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors 96-91 to take a 2-1 NBA Finals lead with yet another monster, 40-point game from LeBron James and the no-name Cleveland defense keeping Golden State under 100 during regulation once again.
As the series turned to Cleveland, a city so trashy they had Rascal Flatts sing the national anthem, the Warriors played their most horrible first half thus far in the playoffs. They scored a measly 37 points in the first half, with Steph Curry scoring only 3 points. Furthermore, the Cavs were ahead by a comfortable 20 with 2:52 left in 3rd quarter.
But then everything started coming up Dub Sack. Klay Thompson hit a 3 to pull the Warriors within 12 in the early 4th quarter, then an Iguodala 3-pointer brought the Warriors to within 9, and Steph signaled that another Warriors comeback was on with a 3-pointer that trimmed the lead to 4. With 2:45 remaining in the game, Curry hit an exhilarating distance 3 to cut the Cavs’ lead to 81-80 and you knew that special magic was happening.
But it was not. Pesky Australian field tick Matthew Dellavadova would get a plus-one foul while hitting one of his bizarre underhand shots, and the deal got sealed when Steph’s behind-the-back-pass to an unprepared Draymond Green fell helplessly out of bounds with 2:05 left.
The Warriors have posted fanatical 4th quarter comebacks in each of these 3 NBA Finals games. But the Cavaliers have dominated the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters of each game, and that formula needs to change.
LeBron James has now scored 123 points in the first 3 games of the Finals, averaging 41 points per game while Steph Curry averages but 24. LeBron has played roughly 142 of the 154 minutes of this series, and it’s becoming clear the Warriors are unable to stop him. LeBron is that giant fucking wildling from “Game of Thrones” right now.
But Steph Curry can still open his white walker, icy-blue eyes and summon up bodies that appear to be dead. Remember, this is the exact same 2-1 series deficit which the Warriors came back from against Memphis. They have done this, and it is not even a particularly tall order. It’s just that we had figured to annihilate the Cavs when Kyrie Irving left the series with a busted kneecap, a development that now feels like nine months ago.
But you guys. One solid Warriors win would change the entire complexion of this series. And we have technically outscored the Cavaliers (292-291) in this very series where we find ourselves down 2-1.
Perhaps the Warriors need to feel that underdog vibe on which the Cavs are thriving, unearthing unlikely heroes like David Lee (11 points and a game-leading +17 plus-minus) the way Cleveland has unearthed pesky Australian field ticks from its bench. The Warriors are still the better team and they are still not the underdogs here. But they need to play like underdogs, and they need to do so effective immediately beginning with Game 4 (Thursday night, 6 p.m. ABC).