The Cleveland Cavaliers looked like title pretenders through the first two games of the NBA Finals, but they rediscovered championship-caliber form Wednesday night with a resounding 120-90 Game 3 win over the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Eastern Conference champions are now 8-0 at home this postseason and one victory away from knotting the series at two games apiece. Game 4 is slated for Friday evening.
Facing must-win circumstances, LeBron James told his teammates before the game to “follow my lead and do your job,” according to the Associated Press’ Tom Withers.
Both sides held up their end of the bargain.
James was magnificent with 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but the most encouraging part of his performance was a 14-of-26 shooting display that included a flurry of face-up and spot-up jump shots that were previously absent from his repertoire.
Kyrie Irving, who entered Game 3 shooting 33.3 percent from the field for the series, was similarly strong in the scoring column with 30 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including 3-of-7 from three, and eight assists.
The Cavaliers were also buoyed by stellar efforts from supplementary contributors. After making just three shots total in Games 1 and 2, J.R. Smith lit up the Warriors to the tune of 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-10 from three.
Tristan Thompson mauled Golden State with 14 points and 13 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass. And with Kevin Love (concussion) out, Richard Jefferson slid into the starting lineup and held down the fort with nine points, eight rebounds, two dimes and two steals.
The Warriors had no answers for such a balanced effort. Stephen Curry mustered just 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting (3-of-9 from three), and Klay Thompson was limited to 10 points after suffering a left thigh contusion in the first half, according to Warriors PR on Twitter.
As a team, the Warriors committed 18 turnovers that led to 34 Cleveland points as the Cavaliers exuded far more confidence from start to finish.
Coming off two uninspiring losses in the Bay Area, the Cavaliers needed a strong opening statement if they wanted to try to erase the memories of underwhelming performances past. As it turns out, they grasped the importance of imposing their will, according to The Ringer’s Bill Simmons: