There’s still a long way to go in this series, but so far the Golden State Warriors have authored arguably the most embarrassing NBA Finals performance in league history. This is a 67-win team that was considered one of the best of all time, and it looks completely shaken by a patchwork Cleveland Cavaliers squad that has 40 points per game sitting on the bench in street clothes.
What in the world has happened to Golden State?
“The Cavaliers have taken the spirit out of these Warriors,” CBSSports.com NBA writer Matt Moore said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “They’re not able to kind of get their entire swagger, their entire ethos, their entire emotional pull up in the air. They’re really struggling on that end, and it’s affected their pace. It’s affected their shooting. They’re not in rhythm and they just look sluggish. The Cavaliers have basically pushed them up against a locker and demanded their lunch money and the Warriors are kind of like, ‘Okay, that’s fine.’ They’ve got to fight more if they’re going to win this title.”
The Cavs took Game 3 on Tuesday, 96-91. They led by 20 points in the second half and have won back-to-back games after losing Kyrie Irving to a fractured kneecap.
And they’ve done it with defense. The Cavs limited Golden State to 38.2 percent shooting in Game 2 and 40.0 percent shooting in Game 3. League MVP Stephen Curry has looked extremely human in this series, his explosive fourth quarter in Game 3 notwithstanding. Curry has shot 15-of-53 (34.9 percent) in his last two games, both Warriors losses.
“It’s (a credit to) the Cavaliers’ defense in total,” Moore said. “Their bigs have done a great job of challenging on switches, and (Matthew Dellavedova) just played him tough in terms of being physical with him. Curry is a small guy. When you constantly keep a body on him and you keep grabbing at him and pushing him and shoving him and getting him out of his comfort zone, this is what happens. The Pelicans couldn’t do it. The Rockets didn’t do it for whatever reason. They just never really attempted (to do it). They were terrible in that series. The Grizzlies did until they ran out of steam and that’s why they had more success. You’re seeing it now with maybe a less heathy overall (team) but at least Dellavedova is healthier than (Mike) Conley was. He’s doing a great job face-guarding and just sticking with him all the time. You make a guy like that work. At this level, Curry is seeing what it’s like when it’s not easy. It’s not easy, and he’s not responding to the challenge right now.”
Indeed, and it’s not as if LeBron James is guarding Curry; it’s undrafted Dellavedova, who scored a playoff career-high 20 points in Game 3.
“I think you have to give Delly a ton of credit,” Moore said. “But also, Curry just hasn’t forced the issue. He simply hasn’t said, ‘I’m the MVP, I’m better than this guy, I’m going to clear him out and I’m going to take him.’ He just simply has not done that. He seems honestly a little bit shook. He’s got to put his imprint on the game.”
Game 4 is Thursday in Cleveland at 9 p.m. ET.
“He had better be ready because so far he has really shrunk from this moment,” Moore said of Curry. “After being so big so often, he’s really shrunk in the Finals.”