When Kyrie Irving went down with a season-ending injury on his kneecap, nobody probably expected the Cleveland Cavaliers to take the NBA Finals series lead at 2-1.
Playing without Irving and Kevin Love, who injured his shoulder during the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics, the Cavs seemed destined to fail against a healthy, running-and-gunning Golden State Warriors.
Talent-wise, the Warriors have a lot – from Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, vastly-improved Dreymond Green, plus veteran bigs like Andre Bogut and David Lee.
But after watching LeBron James explode for 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and getting 20 from Matthew Dellavedova in Game Three, it is pretty obvious that the Cavs are mentally stronger in the title series.
Curry had a strong bounce-back game with 27 points in Game 3, including back-to-backs three-pointers late in the game, but time just wasn’t the Warriors’ ally.
James’ rich championship experience and strong locker-room presence was all over the Cavs’ bench.
Through the first three games, the 30-year-old James has upped his Finals stats to 40.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 8.3 assists – in a herculean effort, which he hopes would be enough to lead the Cavs to their first-ever NBA championship.
LBJ says he doesn’t really know how long he can sustain these numbers, but what’s sure is, he’ll continue to lead Cleveland through the remaining games of the title series.
”I don’t know if I can continue to put up these type of numbers but I know I’ll continue to lead these guys every single night,”said the two-time NBA champion after the game.
The win moved the Cavs closer to the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.
As for the Warriors, they will have to fasttrack their learning process in the Finals, or else, face the spectre of going back to Oracle Arena with a 1-3 deficit and possibly, lose their rare chance of winning the NBA crown.