Ready the Brooms: Warriors One Away From Cleveland Sweep

Going into Game 3 of the NBA Finals, there was a lot of talk about the Warriors going undefeated. Somewhere there was a broom itching to sweep itself across the Cavs court. As Cleveland fans crossed their fingers for a decisive and pivotal victory on their home terf, Kevin Durant was readying himself for a different outcome. What followed Wednesday night was a definitive statement about who the best team in the NBA really was.

Hint: It’s not the Cavaliers.

Despite LeBron James’ 39 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist performance — despite Kyrie’s 38 — in the end the Warriors came out on top with a final score of 118-113. This was Golden State’s toughest test yet, and they passed. On the road, with James and Kyrie playing some of their best basketball and the Cavaliers biting at the Warriors’ heels all game long. For a while it seemed the Cavs would win this one. So what happened?

Late Game Implosion

With 3:10 left to go in the fourth quarter, LeBron found J.R. Smith for three. That gave them a six point lead. It would be their last bucket of the night. What followed was nothing short of disastrous. Cleveland panicked, missing their final eight shots while the Warriors mounted an 11-0 run to close it out. Overall, they shot 3-of-20 on contested shots in the fourth quarter, with James and Irving going 1-for-10.

Fatigue Sets In

James' and Irvings' best were not good enough. After going 0-8 in the final minutes, they gave up a seven point lead to go down 3-0. Now, they're one away from being swept.

“I gave everything that I had, so at times throughout the game I was tired, but that’s just because I was just playing as hard as I could,” LeBron James said. “But I was able to get second and third and fourth winds.” Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

They wouldn’t admit it, but it was clear that fatigue played a role in James’ and Irving’s fourth quarter play. The two of them combined for a whopping 90 minutes of on-court action. If not for the way they put the team on their backs for the first three quarters, the Cavs would have lost the game much earlier. But in the end, the same thing that propelled them to a lead early in the fourth gave way to their eventual downfall.

Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr, who returned for his first Finals game this series, anticipated as much.

“We just felt like the way they play, Kyrie and LeBron had it going the whole game, but that’s pretty taxing to go one-on-one the whole game,” Kerr said. “Both those guys were amazing, 38 and 39. But that takes a lot out of you.

“And I think when you get guys playing 45, 44 minutes, basically attacking one-on-one the whole game, it’s — you hope eventually it’s going to take its toll,” Kerr added. “I wasn’t sure after a while; they just were going nuts. But I think that we just stayed with it, and our defense finally kicked in.”

Durant’s Fourth Quarter Heroics

While the Cavs began to lose steam, KD was just getting started. After scoring 17 points through the first three quarters, Durant dropped 14 in the fourth, including the decisive go-ahead 3.

On that go-ahead basket, he said, “I’ve been working on that shot my whole life. And for that one to go in, that was liberating right there.”

Liberating, indeed.

Durant finished with 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Strong Play from Thompson and Curry

But the game could not have been won without the strong play of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Thompson, who’s been playing shutdown defense all series long, scored 30 and added 6 rebounds — he also shot 6-11 from three point land. While Curry grabbed a double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds. He also kept his turnovers to one after contributing to a 20-turnover game in game 2.

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

Here’s the thing, and this has become readily apparent through these first three games: the Cavs are simply not good enough to beat this Warriors team. This is not the 2016 Finals. And this is not the same Warriors squad. Last offseason, Golden State went out and got arguably the best offensive player in the NBA. On Wednesday night, he demonstrated why.

The Warriors went 73-9 last season — the best regular season in NBA history. As it was, they were amazing. Then they acquired Durant, which just added salt to Cleveland’s eventual wound.

Here’s the short of it: this Warriors team may be the best NBA team ever assembled. And that’s saying a hell of a lot.

LeBron said it himself in the post game, “I’ve played against some great teams, but I don’t think no team has had this type of firepower.”

No Room for Mistakes

Reporters also asked James about contending with such a small margin for error against a talented team.

“On me, personally. I mean, obviously, it’s physically and emotionally draining because I give everything to the game and want to put myself and my teammates in a position to be successful,” he said. “… I lay it all on the floor, and I did that tonight, gave everything that I had, both mentally and physically. So obviously, I’m drained right now, ready to get home. But you’re going against a team like this and you put together a game like we had where we had an opportunity, it’s definitely draining.”

And that’s really the gist of it: (possibly) the best player in the history of the NBA played some of the best ball of his career and it still wasn’t enough. That’s what we’ve seen throughout this series. A top tier team with two of the most talented players in the league coming up short time against a clearly superior opponent.

I’ve been saying it all week. The Cavs just aren’t good enough to beat this team. You can tell their doing the best they can. You can tell they’re laying it all out there. But it’s just not good enough.

Going Forward

Game 4 kicks off at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday. The Warriors now hold a 3-0 lead. And though it’s been said numerous times already, this bears repeating. No team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit. All in all, the way things are going don’t be surprised to see the brooms come out.