Random dribbles following the Cavaliers 137-116 romp of the Golden State Warriors in game 3 of the NBA Finals on Friday.
1. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the Cavaliers winning a game like this. Not when the Warriors added Kevin Durant. Not when the Cavs couldn’t do much right in the first two games, then fell apart at the end of Game 3 at home.
2. I suspected the Cavs would mail it in and face the offseason. By that, I mean I figured they’d come out and just go through the motions, and accept that their reign as champions is probably over.
3. They did the opposite. Man, did they do the opposite.
4. It’s late (or should I say early?) and the Cavs set so many records that my head and keyboard are spinning. I’m not going to write about them all again here. Those interested can check out my other column/report on the game: Cavs smash record and Warriors, stay alive.
5. It is worth mentioning that LeBron James somehow delivered yet another triple-double — with 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. That gives him a total of nine in the NBA Finals and enabled him to pass Magic Johnson for the most in league history. James also passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time Finals scoring list.
6. The man passed Magic and Michael on the same night. For those of us who know about the NBA in the 1980’s, that’s two-thirds of basketball’s holy trinity. You may want to watch out too, Larry Bird.
7. Or how about Kyrie Irving? He was simply relentless on his way to making 11 of his first 14 field-goal attempts. He attacked, he wrestled, he scrapped, he nestled in jumpers from beyond the 3-point arc, with defenders seemingly always in his face or falling down around him.
8. In the end, he finished with 40 points, and when Kyrie is at his best, he is a basketball sight to behold. On this night, he was quite often the best player on the floor in a game that also featured LeBron, Kevin Durant (35 points), Kevin Love (23), Steph Curry (14) and Klay Thompson (13).
9. The Cavs also had to feel good that J.R. Smith performed well for the second straight game. Smith scored 15 points and was extremely engaged at both ends. If the Cavs are to have any chance at all in Game 5 on the road, Smith will need to again come out a-blazin’.
10. No, I can’t explain the referees and how they tried to justify blaming Draymond Green’s technical on a miscommunication with the scorer’s table. One scorekeeper told several reporters there was no way the officials called the first T on Warriors coach Steve Kerr — as the refs later claimed was the case.
11. Either way, it didn’t matter in the long run. Neither did the fact Warriors center Zaza Pachulia punched Cavs guard Iman Shumpert twice in the groin area and basically went unpunished. The refs even checked the monitor, and still … oh, never mind.
12. If you saw it, you know the officiating was horrendous, and honestly, it was bad both ways. It was the referring equivalent of being on the wrong end of a 21-point blowout.
13. Tristan Thompson was much better when it came to energy, effort, focus and overall productivity. He came into the game averaging just less than four rebounds a game in the Finals. If Thompson doesn’t rebound or defend, it’s not worth having him out there. He gives you virtually nothing on offense. But he had 10 boards on this night, and proved again that he belonged.
14. Thompson also talked a fair share of trash, particularly with Green, and the Cavs could use more of that. Not necessarily trash-talking, but the Warriors play with a tremendous amount of emotion and physicality. The Cavs could use some themselves. Thompson gave it to them.
15. Also, I’ve been ripping on Cavs coach Tyronn Lue’s decision to continuously stick with Richard Jefferson, and for the most part, it’s been justified. But the decision paid off Friday, with Jefferson continuously being a pest on defense and knocking down a couple of important shots. Those are the type of minutes the Cavs need from him in Game 5. If RJ gives it to them, and the starters do what’s expected, the Cavs have a chance.
16. Love on the win: “We’re a resilient group. We have been in this situation before. We know that every year, every playoff series, every game is different. But we just are a team that never counts ourselves out. We feel like any game that we walk on the floor, we have a great game plan and we expect to win.”
17. So can the Cavs do it? Can they win Game 5? On the road? For the second straight year, while down 3-1? Man, I’m not even about to doubt them. It won’t be easy — at all. It might be the toughest game in which LeBron has ever been involved. But I’ll say this: The Warriors had better hope for their sake they close it out now. The last thing they want is to come back to Cleveland.