After dropping the first two games of the NBA Finals by a combined 48 points, the Cleveland Cavaliers are tumbling and in danger of falling behind 3-0 as the series turns to Game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday night.
LeBron James and Co. were dealt a punishing blow in Game 2, falling 110-77 despite two-time MVP and Warriors point guard Stephen Curry limited with four fouls and the defending champs committing 20 total turnovers. The Warriors enter Game 3 as the favorite by one point.
While Golden State’s appeared to have regained its championship-favorite form, the Cavs are not out yet. Many will point to James’ lack of scoring, taking only 21 shots in Game 1 and 17 in Game 2, and his eight total free throws between the two games.
But we already saw what a one-dimensional Cavs team can do in the finals with James running the entire show. Instead, Cleveland will need a resounding team effort on their home floor in order to extend the series.
Here’s three reasons the Cavs can win Game 3 and keep their championship aspirations alive.
Home Sweet Home
If the Cavs turnaround happens anywhere, it’s on their Quicken Loans home floor.
Their disappointing showing in the finals’ first two stanzas has blinded everyone to the fact that Cleveland was one of the best home-court teams in the NBA. The Cavs were 33-8 at home this season (the third best mark in the league) and they’ve been even better in the postseason. Cleveland’s 7-0 at Quicken Loans during these playoffs and have won by an average of 20.9 points per game.
And in the regular season, Cleveland was a better rebounding, passing, and defensive team at home. Cleveland averaged 24.8 assists at Quicken Loans compared to 20.6 on the road, averaged an additional 0.5 steals per game, and an improvement of 0.5 blocks per contest.
The Warriors, meanwhile, have lost four road games this postseason.
Unleashing Channing Frye and Kyrie Irving
James can't carry the load on his own. Head coach Tyronn Lue will need a lot more from big man Channing Frye and point guard Kyrie Irving, two players who can abruptly shift the momentum back to Cleveland.
Frye, who’s shooting 56.5 percent from three-point range in the playoffs, entered the series as a potential x-factor. Between the second round and the Eastern Conference finals, Frye was averaging more than four three-point attempts a game. He has attempted one three in the first two games of the finals and played 11 total minutes.
Irving’s been plagued by poor overall shooting and bad decisions. The 24-year-old has as many total turnovers as he does steals (6) in the finals and he’s shot a combined 12-36 from the field. Cleveland needs his hot shooting from the second round against Atlanta, who he lit up 66.7 percent of the time from deep.
Irving should provide a more inspired defensive effort at home against Curry, and will look more like the explosive scorer he was against the Raptors than his lethargic play in the first two games of the finals. At Quicken Loans this season, Irving has shot 46 percent from the field, compared to 43.6 percent on the road.
Gotta Love Love
The 6-foot-10 forward has reportedly been cleared to play for Game 3 after sustaining a concussion from an elbow to the head by Warriors swingman Harrison Barnes. How much he’ll play or how effective he’ll be remains to be seen, but the Cavs need that third major cog to run smoothly in order to avoid a potential sweep. And Love has shown resiliency before.
Love struggled in Games 3 and 4 of the conference finals, going 5-23 from the field and snagging just 11 rebounds. But he responded in the final two games of the series with 45 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists, as Cleveland got him involved in the offense early in the first quarter. Love was especially lethal from three, going 7-12 from deep.
It wouldn't be surprising if Love steps up in Game 3. Expect the 27-year-old to be more aggressive on both ends of the court in a crucial game.