CLEVELAND — Less than 12 hours after their brutal Game 3 loss, the Cavs showed up to practice at Quicken Loans Arena where it felt like the assembled media was attending a wake for the defending champs. Attitudes were sour and bodies still sore from a rugged and riveting game, the Cavs did their best to put on brave faces and use the typical sports clichés about how you take it one game at a time and how the series isn’t over until it’s over.
But we all know better. And they probably do, too. After two blowouts suffered at the hands of the Warriors in Oakland and an utterly devastating defeat in the waning seconds Wednesday, the writing is on the wall for the Cavs.
And even if LeBron James and company could have done things differently in Game 3—really, should have done things differently—they refused to second-guess themselves Thursday.
James, forever the ultimate NBA lighting rod, took major heat for deferring to his teammates down the stretch of Game 3, most especially when he was isolated on Draymond Green, who was playing with five fouls, but refused to drive to the basket, instead finding Kyle Korver in the corner for a three he clanged with 52 seconds to go.
“If I could have the play over again,” said James, explaining all his options in intricate detail, “I would do the same exact thing.”
You can have a healthy debate over whether James should have drove to the hole or made the right play—he should have taken it straight at Green—but the bottom line is the Cavs came up incredibly small over the final three minutes of Game 3, falling to score on their six possessions, and now will have to play out of their minds for a second straight game just to avoid the indignation of watching the Warriors celebrate a second championship on their home court in three years, completing their historic run through the playoffs.
“Close out games are always the hardest, but 16-0 would be a great feat.”
The Land, as you may have heard Cleveland called before, was dead Thursday, still reeling from what it horrifyingly witnessed. The good vibes and energy permeating throughout the city Wednesday was long gone. Cavs fans watched James and Kyrie Irving do some amazing things until they ran out of gas at the end and the Warriors, thanks in large part to Kevin Durant's 14 points in the fourth quarter, including his dagger transition three, put the best-of-seven series in a chokehold.
“This is a make-or-miss league, and we understand that, because if that three that he pulls in transition goes the other way, then the whole conversation could be different,” Irving said. “But he nails a big-time shot like that.”
Durant, the soon-to-be NBA Finals MVP, was once again the difference, pushing the Warriors one step closer to earning immortality as the only team to finish the postseason with a perfect record.
“Close out games are always the hardest, but 16-0 would be a great feat,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “If we don’t do it, it’s not the end all. But that’s something we can hang our hats on for the rest of our lives if we accomplish that. The Cavs aren’t going to give it to us. They’re prideful and no one wants to get swept.”
Let the debate begin where a 16-0 Warriors team deserves to be placed amongst basketball's greatest squads. The best team of all-time? Certainly the greatest postseason team all-time, right?
“You could make an argument,” Thompson said with a sly smile.