2017-06-07 20:03:03
N.B.A. Finals Game 3: Cavs vs. Warriors Top Story Lines

20:03, June 07 279 0

Expected to be a matchup of two teams at full strength, the 2017 N.B.A. finals have been all Warriors thus far, with Golden State taking an easy 2-0 lead. As the series shifts to Cleveland for Game 3, the Cavaliers have little margin for error if they are to get back into it.

How to watch: ABC will broadcast the game, which starts at 9 p.m. Eastern. You can also stream it online at WatchESPN.com

Here’s what to expect in Game 3:

Pace is the most important factor for Cleveland. The Warriors were the fourth fastest team in the N.B.A. this season, with an average of 102.5 possessions per 48 minutes according to NBA.com, while the Cavaliers were ranked 16th at 98.4. In Games 1 and 2, the Warriors turned on the jets and forced a breakneck pace of 105.5 possessions per game, just over 10 more a game than the teams averaged in last year’s finals. Even with LeBron James and others insisting that there is no need to slow things down, the fact remains that the Cavaliers have not been able to keep up when the Warriors so far, and pace seems like the thing they could best control.

While James has been his typical dominant self, the thing the Cavaliers are missing most from their deficit-eliminating performance in Games 3 through 7 of last year’s finals is Kyrie Irving nearly matching James in terms of production. Irving has averaged 21.5 points and 4.5 assists a game in Games 1 and 2, but as the Cavaliers went about erasing the Warriors’ 2-0 advantage last season, he averaged 30.8 points a game and shot 50.8 percent from the field over five games. The star guard is reportedly working his way through a knee injury, which makes his production commendable, but Cleveland will need more from Irving or someone else as James has yet to be able to single-handedly will the team back into games thus far.

The Warriors keep saying they could play better, and considering that they have not played particularly well in the first half of either game they’re probably right. If they can avoid getting bogged down by a Cleveland team looking to make the games slower and more physical, and can see more production from Klay Thompson, who came out of his slump some in Game 2, there is opportunity for improvement.

For all the talk of the Warriors’ stars, the most shocking statistic of the series may be that the undersized Warriors are currently leading the rebounding battle, with 103 to Cleveland’s 100. In the previous two finals between these teams the Cavaliers got dominant rebounding on both ends of the court from Tristan Thompson. But he has been almost entirely neutralized by Golden State, with just 8 rebounds through two games to go with 8 points. Kevin Love and James have rebounded well, combining for 27 a game, but Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have won their fair share of battles for the ball, too. Each of them is averaging 8 or more rebounds a game.