Agent Smith: Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. That is the sound of your death. Goodbye, Mr. Anderson.
The Facts: The Golden State Warriors moved one game closer to their second championship in a row and 3rd in 4 years, defeating the Cavs in Cleveland in Game 3. The Cavs opened the game strong, taking an early 13 point lead in part buoyed by higher defensive energy and additional shot-making from George Hill, J.R. Smith, and Kevin Love. However, Kevin Durant had his best game of the series and near single-handedly kept his team within striking distance. The Cavs could have gone into the half up by double digits, but instead held onto a slim 6 point lead.
The Warriors’ favorite quarter once again turned the tables on the game, as they turned a deficit into a lead by the end of it, but impressively, the Cavs held on and entered the 4th only down a bucket. However, in what was perhaps the most surprising turn in this series so far, LeBron James finally began to show the wear and tear these playoffs have put on him. Not only was his jump shot way off, but he struggled to finish at the rim, as you can see in his shot zones map:
Even with better shotmaking and a surprise performance by maligned Rodney Hood, there just isn’t enough there to keep up with Golden State. The Warriors closed out with just enough of a surge and we are once again nearing the end.
The Reaction: We always knew we would end up at this point in the postseason. The only real fly in the ointment was Chris Paul’s health, and once that fulfilled itself there was really no other viable outcome.
The irritating thing about it all is, the Cavs, for all their deficiencies compared to Golden State, had legitimate shots to win both games one and three. Game one, through a collection of errors — some self-inflicted and some not — was likely, as I offered, the high point in this series. Game three is just too bad. It’s too bad that James had his worst game since Game Two against Boston, but even in that series there was time to recover. This one is cooked, because in the end Cleveland was simply making mistakes on plays — missed layups, turnovers, bad rotations, etc. And while the Warriors’ stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were off for most of the night, they didn’t. They missed shots, to be sure, but they didn’t make mistakes.
Which brings us once again to one Kevin Wayne Durant. I’ve been watching him in the playoffs since 2010, and I feel comfortable saying this is the best game I’ve ever seen him play in the playoffs. Of course he does not and will not ever have to face the same defensive pressure he faced while in OKC for the rest of his career, and let us not forget the Cavs’ defensive effort against him was just terrible.
And aside — this is the last time I’m going to argue it (this year anyway), there’s only one way to effectively guard Durant. You don’t guard him with your arms, you guard him with your legs. You target his lower body from the hips down and you push him around. His greatest physical attribute — his insane length — is his greatest liability. There’s a reason why Houston was playing Chris Paul on Durant late in games last round, and there’s a reason why the sub-six-footer played better D against him than anyone the Cavs have thrown at KD. Jeff Van Gundy exclaimed it himself that you can’t let Durant dance around and get his legs underneath him, right before JVG ran onto the court and latched himself onto Durant’s leg (that may not have actually happened).
But aside from all that, Durant was in control, and when he’s in control, the normal things become easy and the hard things become normal.
I guess I should be thankful at this point, because I just want this season to be over. Please.
Regular sweep or gentleman’s sweep?
This poll is closed