Must-win situation for Cavs
DOWN 0-2, LeBron James and the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers are in a must-win situation in today’s Game Three of the 2018 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals against the reigning titlist Golden State Warriors at the Quicken Loans Arena.
With the homecourt advantage, the Warriors grabbed a commanding lead in the best-of-seven duel by defeating the Cavs, 124-114, in overtime, in Game One and 122-103 in Game Two.
Stephen Curry, who lost out to Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant during the Finals Most Valuable Player balloting in the Dubs’ twin title finishes in 2015 and 2017, looks to win the Bill Russell Trophy this time.
Curry is averaging 31.0 points (22-49 FGA, 14-28 3-FGA), 8.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds after two games. Durant, the 2017 Finals MVP awardee, is hitting at a 26-point clip (18-36 FGA, 3-10 3-FGA) and norming 9.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists an outing.
Curry’s co-Splash Brother Klay Thompson, who is recovering from a high left ankle sprain he suffered in a Game 1 collision with Cleveland’s J.R. Smith, is making 22 ppg on shooting percentages of .552 (16-for-29) from the field, including .444 (8-for-18) from beyond the arc.
The Warriors’ fourth All-Star, do-everything Draymond Green, owns averages of 9 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 8 apg. Reserve guard Shaun Livingston is tallying 10 ppg with perfect shooting – 9-for-9 from the field and 2-for-2 from the charity stripes. Clumsy center JaVale McGee went 6-for-6 in his first Finals start ever in Game Two and is scoring 8 ppg (8-9 FGA).
Iguodala, who has not suited up since Game Four of the West finals against Houston due to a left lateral leg contusion, is expected to show up at some point in the Finals and play tough defense against James.
The burden-heavy James is averaging 40 ppg on .558 (29-for-52) field goal shooting, including .455 (5-for-11) from three-point range, handing out 10.5 assists and plucking down 8.5 boards in 46 minutes per contest.
In NBA playoff history, only three times has a player averaged 40 points or more in the Finals. These are Chicago’s Michael Jordan (41 ppg in the Bulls’ 4-2 win over Phoenix during the 1993 Finals), San Francisco (now Golden State)’s Rick Barry (40.8 ppg in the Warriors’ 4-2 loss to Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1967 Finals), and the LA Lakers’ Elgin Baylor (40.6 ppg in a seven-game loss to Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics during the 1962 Finals).
James’ sidekick, Kevin Love, owns a double-double at 21.5 ppg and 11.5 rpg but is a frigid .421 (16-for-38) from the field, including .250 (4-for-16) from beyond the arc, in the first two games against Golden State.
Guard George Hill is averaging 11 ppg on .389 (7-for-18) field goal shooting but the rest of the cold-shooting Cavs have gone MIA. Smith owns a 7.5 ppg on a .263 (5-for-19) field clip, including 3-for-10 from the three-point area.
There are talks that Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue might shuffle his starting lineup and replace Smith with Kyle Korver (2.0 ppg), who himself is struggling with his limited attempts (a combined 1-for-6 FG shooting), or maybe Jordan Clarkson (3 ppg on 3-for-13 FGA), who has lost his confidence after being acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in a midseason trade.
The Cavs need Smith, Korver and Clarkson to recover from their offensive slump if the team is to win Game Three and make these Finals a series despite the long odds against them.
Cleveland will again host Game Four on Saturday, June 9 (Manila time, 9 a.m.).
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Steve Kerr, who joined the NBA coaching ranks with Golden State in May 2014, is the fifth head coach in league history to steer his team to the Finals for four consecutive years or longer.
He is also looking for his third title in four years and seeking to join the venerable Arnold (Red) Auerbach with three or more championships during a four-year span.
Auerbach piloted the Boston Celtics to the championship round for 10 straight years from 1957 to 1966 during the Bill Russell era, winning it all nine times, including a league-record eight in a row from 1959 to 1966.
Pat Riley went to the Finals four years in a row with LA Lakers from 1982 to 1985, romping away with the Larry O’Brien hardware in 1982 and 1985 behind Earvin (Magic) Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
K.C. Jones coached Boston to four straight Finals appearances from 1984 to 1987, with the Green emerging triumphant in 1984 and 1986 behind the Big Three frontline made up of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.
Miami’s Fil-American coach Erik Spoelstra mentored the Heat to the Finals from 2011 to 2014, reaching the mountain top in 2012 and 2013 with the Heat’s own Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
James would later leave the Heat in the summer of 2014 to rejoin the Cavaliers in his home state.
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With 51 and 29 points totaling 80 in the first two games of the 2018 NBA Finals against Golden State, Cleveland uberstar LeBron James now has 1,335 Finals points in nine championship-round appearances in his 15-year tenure — second most in NBA history.
The Logo Jerry West is No. 1 on the all-time NBA Finals scoring list with 1,679 points in nine (1-8) Finals trips.
James moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,317) at the No. 2 spot in Game Two of the ongoing Finals.
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