The Golden State Warriors took care of business at home with back-to-back beat-downs of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first two games of the 2016 NBA Finals.
The series shifts to Cleveland on Wednesday, where the Cavs will try to find a way to slow down the streaking Warriors and keep their championship hopes alive.
Here are three questions and a prediction for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, which begins at 6 p.m. on ABC15.
1. Will home court be an advantage for Cleveland?
There’s an old saying that a playoff series doesn’t really begin until the home team loses a game. That’s why Cavs fans still have hope: Cleveland went 33-8 at home during the regular season and is a perfect 7-0 during the playoffs.
The wrinkle: One of Cleveland’s eight home losses came in an embarrassing 34-point defeat to the Warriors in January. Can the Cavs, which are coming off a similar 33-point loss to Golden State in Game 2, turn the tables – especially without one of their top players? That brings us to…
2. Who will step up in Kevin Love’s absence?
The Cavaliers got some bad news Wednesday morning when they learned All-Star center Kevin Love, who suffered a concussion in Game 2, has not been cleared to play in Game 3. Love, who missed the entire 2015 NBA Finals with a shoulder injury, is a tough man to replace, especially from the outside.
But even with Love, the Cavs have struggled from 3-point range in this series. In his absence, 3-point specialists such as guard J.R. Smith and former Suns forward/center Channing Frye need to start connecting from beyond the arc in order to take pressure off LeBron. Will they be able to get things going on their home court?
3. Can the Cavs slow Draymond Green?
Through two games, the MVP of these NBA Finals hasn’t been Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, but forward Draymond Green. After coming three assists shy of a triple-double in Game 1, the 2016 NBA All-Star scored a game-high 28 points and connected on five 3-point attempts in Game 2.
Green seems to like playing the Cavs, as he put up similar numbers in Golden State’s two regular-season meetings with Cleveland. Can the Cavs keep Green in check Wednesday – and if they do, will they do so at the expense of allowing Curry and/or Thompson to put up big numbers?
After having a near-death experience in the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors have a newfound appreciation for life, as evidenced by their five straight combined victories over the Thunder and Cavs. It’s tough to imagine a Love-less Cleveland team doing anything to derail that train now.
But even without Love: If the Cavs are going to win a game in this series, it’ll probably be this one. Before the series started, I predicted Golden State would win the series in five games. So, let’s give this one to a desperate Cleveland team facing a must-win situation at home.
Cavaliers 99, Warriors 96