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NBA Finals: Cavs return home to fight for their lives in Game 3 vs. Warriors

The NBA world is resigned to the season being functionally over. Can the Cavs change the narrative?

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

My first video game system was the Sega genesis. We didn’t have a ton of money when I was growing up but my dad worked in the hardware department of the general store, and in 1994 the video games were in the hardware department of the general store, and if someone returned a console thinking it was broken but it wasn’t broken, my dad could bring it home. So we had a Sega genesis. My favorite game was Joe Montana Football ‘94. You could press the B button (I think, I was five years old at the time) and do a spin move over and over again and not only would your player avoid a dizzy spell, he was virtually untackle-able.

Anyway, if there was five seconds left in the game, it would cut off and you could not run another play. The announcer would come out of nowhere and say, very slowly, Theee Gaaaame is Ooover. It was very frustrating because oftentimes I’d be trying to get to 100 points or something of that sort.

We are, at most, halfway through the NBA Finals, and most people are ready to cut off play. The topic of conversation today has been about what it would mean if the Warriors finished the playoffs 16-0. There was the thought that Kevin Durant joining the Warriors would make the season a fait accompli. There has been almost nothing, perhaps maybe a Christmas Day Cavs win over the Warriors, to indicate that thought has been wrong, really all year.

This has all been pretty insane. The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the top three players of all time in LeBron James, and he’s playing about as well as ever. They are the reigning NBA champs, and are probably better than they were a year ago. They lost just one game in the Eastern Conference playoffs. And yet they were heavy underdogs heading into the Finals, and have even steeper odds a week into them.

Of course, there have always been teams that towered above the rest of the league. It’s not clear everything has felt - and ultimately been - this preordained. The days of wondering if Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, or Harrison Barnes would hit enough threes are over. When you have two of the NBA’s top three players on your team, plus a top three shooter, plus the best defender, the crazy breakdowns just don’t even feel worth it.

The Cavs have been in both of the first two games of the NBA Finals at various points. They haven’t played their best. Against this team, there is no margin for error. Their rebounding edge hasn’t materialized. Kevin Durant’s length and scoring and passing have been otherworldly, and Steph Curry has picked and choose his spots. LeBron James has had to force the issue and exhausted himself in the process. Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith have been no-shows. Klay Thompson is defending like crazy and helping to make Kyrie Irving’s life miserable.

The ways Cleveland can make Game 3 competitive:

  • Make a good percentage of their three-point attempts
  • Rebound the basketball at a level we haven’t seen yet, on both ends of the court
  • Get Irving comfortable on the court

All three of these are possible. But even if the Cavs are successful, Kevin Durant might just be too good. He has been in the first two games.