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NBA Playoff Journal, June 10

   by Larry Ness - 06/10/2016

Playoff Journal (June 10)

The Beatles famously sang “All You Need is Love” but on the cusp of Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Cavs may not feel that way. After losing the first two games of the series by a combined 48 points (largest margin of victory by any team in going up 2-0 in NBA Finals history), the Cavs returned home and were without the services of Kevin Love. Love was deemed not ready for action due to the NBA’s concussion protocol and Lue inserted Richard Jefferson into the starting lineup in his place. Jefferson contributed nine points and eight rebounds Wednesday but it would be unfair to say that Love’s absence was the reason the Cavs played so well in Game 3.

LBJ and the Cavaliers were MUCH more aggressive in Game 3, the first home game in the series for Cleveland, which came on the heels of a 33-point loss at Oracle Arena in Game 2. Irving had 16 points in the the first quarter and LBJ had 13 in the third. James finished with 32-11-6 (his 82nd playoff game with 30-plus points), while Irving added 30 points. J.R. Smith, who had attempted just NINE shots in the first two games (while scoring eight points), had 20 points in making 7 of 13 from the floor (5 of 10 on threes). Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 13 rebounds, as the Cavs dominated the boards, outrebounding the Warriors 52-32. The Cavs shot 52.7 percent as a team and after making just 12 of 44 three-point attempts in the first two games, made 12 of 25 in Game 3.

The “Splash Brothers” continued to struggle for Golden St plus Green, who was averaging 22.0 PPG after two games, made just 2 of 8 (0 of 4 on threes) for six points. Curry had only two points and finished with 19 points and was a total non-factor. So was Thompson, who had only 10 points, as the duo combined to shoot 4 of 16 on threes. Curry averaged 27.9 PPG vs OKC but has averaged just 16.0 PPG in the Finals, while Thompson's fallen from 24.7 PPG vs the Thunder to 12.0 PPG against the Cavs. The Warriors are now 0-4 this postseason in Game 3s and that’s been a pattern these last two postseasons. Golden St is 2-6 the last two postseason in Game 3s, while going 28-5 in all other games.

Meanwhile, the the Cavs’ Game 3 win makes them 8-0 this postseason at home. After winning 106-101 against Detroit in Game 1 of that opening round series, the Cavs have covered each of their last seven home games, with a winning margin of 24.4 PPG! The Cavs are 13-0 this postseason when reaching triple digits (have averaged 110.3 PPG in those contests) but 0-4 when held under 100 points (have averaged a modest 87.3 PPG in those losses). Home teams have dominated the play in the conference finals and now the NBA Finals, going 13-3 SU and ATS.

Checking in on the postseason numbers to-date, home teams are 57-25 SU (.695) and 51-31 ATS (62.2%). Fifty of the 82 games have stayed under (that’s 61.0%) and those following the Zig-Zag theory are 34-33 but minus-2.3 net games. Tyronn Lue has said he will not determine playing rotations or a starting lineup until midday Friday, when medical personnel decides along with Love whether he's ready to return to game action. "We miss his rebounding. We miss his post presence. We miss his three-point shooting," Lue said Thursday. "So we definitely want him back, but he has to take the steps necessary to get himself back. So just staying positive with him. We know it's a tough time being in the NBA Finals. It's something you dreamed about your whole life, and having to deal with this is tough. But myself, my coaching staff, teammates, we all have his back and we wish him well and need him back."

Will Game 4’s outcome be effected by Lue’s decision? Cleveland’s Game 3 rout marked just the third time in NBA Finals history a 20-point win for one team was followed by a 20-point win for the other. Checking in with the two-time MVP. Curry said, "It was all me. They were playing aggressive defense, and they came out with a big punch. I didn't do anything about it or play my game, and for me to do what I need to do to help my team, I have to play a hundred times better than that, especially in the first quarter, to kind of control the game, and I didn't do it." Draymond Green added this. "We were extremely soft. We got bullied, punked, whatever word you can find for it."

Golden St hadn’t lost back-to-back games all year (12-0 SU and 9-3 ATS following a loss), before losing Games 3 and 4 in OKC to the Thunder. Will Curry and Thompson regain their form and give the Warriors a 3-1 lead? “Just think about the OKC series. We're down 3-1, he (Curry) hadn't played well," Kerr said Thursday. "Look what he did the last few games. So that's Steph. That's who he is. He always responds. He's got a huge heart, competitive as hell, and extremely talented. I know how he will respond. He'll play well. He always does."

The Cavaliers Game 3 win got them off the proverbial mat in the Finals but LBJ said Thursday the mindset better be the same entering Game 4. Yes, the Cavs have been a ‘monster’ at home in the 2016 postseason (see details above) but quoting LBJ,"We can't afford to go down 3-1 and go into their building and give them confidence going back. So it's a do-or-die game for us still.” Game 4 tips at 9:00 ET on ABC with the Cavs a two-point favorite as of late Friday morning. My next journal will be Monday, available by 12 noon ET. Will it be 3-1 Golden St or tied at two-all?

Good luck...Larry

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