For 45 minutes in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers did plenty of good things. Unfortunately, those were the first 45 minutes. The last three minutes were spent on the wrong end of an 11-0 Warriors run, and what was in many ways a remarkable Cleveland performance will be remembered for the 180 seconds of crashing and burning that will surely cost the Cavaliers any chance to win a second consecutive title. Before we get to the recriminations, let’s take a moment to collect the positives Cleveland should take away from the 118-113 loss that put them down 3-0 in the finals. If you want to be morbid, consider this a living wake.
1) Kyrie Irving was magnificent going to the rim. While his outside shot failed him (he went 0-7 from three), he put together a season’s worth of acrobatic layups on his way to 38 points. It’d be a shame if these got tossed into the ash heap of history, so let’s preserve at least one of those plays for future generations.
2) With the Cavs’ season on the line, LeBron put together a Titanic performance. Sadly, he was the band leader in this scenario. His 39 points led all scorers, and he was one assist away from a triple-double. He also did cool things like this:
Add it to the time capsule!
3) According to Elias, LeBron and Kyrie’s 77 combined points was the highest-ever total for a duo in a Finals loss. Congrats?
4) J.R. Smith was much improved after his terrible performances in the first two games of the finals. He shot 5 from 10 from three-point range, including a massive three with 3:10 left to put the Cavs up 6. Unfortunately, the Warriors began their 11-0 run right after that. If Game 3 were Bambi, that’s the moment your parents would turn off the VCR and send you to bed.
5) Deron Williams was, uh … well ... he went 0 for 2. But he had a plus-minus of +4 in four minutes of play! It wasn’t his fault! Will this go down in history as “The Deron Williams Game”? Unlikely. But when the Cavs start naming culprits for Wednesday night’s loss, Williams will not be one of them. Way to go, Deron.
We’ll have more later on what went wrong for the Cavs and what went right for the Warriors. For now, let’s just cherish that brief window in which Cleveland seemed like it had a chance. That was fun.