After falling behind the Golden State Warriors 2-0 in the NBA Finals, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the basketball world by destroying the Warriors by 30 points in Game 3.
Can LeBron and the Cavs do enough to even the series at 2-2 in Cleveland, or will the visiting Warriors get back on track and return home with a 3-1 edge? Here are three questions and a prediction for Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals, which begins Thursday at 6 p.m. on ABC15.
1. Will Stephen Curry emerge?
The reigning NBA MVP has been curiously absent throughout most of this series. It didn't matter so much in Games 1 or 2 (both easy Warriors victories), but Stephen Curry's two points through 2 1/2 quarters of Game 3 was kind of a big deal.
During the regular season, Curry averaged 30.1 points per game and shot 50.1 percent from the field. Through three NBA Finals games, he's averaged 16 ppg and shot 43.6 percent from the floor. If Curry doesn't step up in Game 4, will Golden State stand much of a chance of taking a 3-1 series lead?
2. What role will Love play?
Without Kevin Love, who suffered a concussion in Game 2, the Cavs rolled past Golden state in Game 3. The two questions heading into Game 4 are: Will Love be cleared to play, and if so, how much of the court will he see?
Since Wednesday's result, the debate has raged: Are the Cavaliers actually better without the three-time All-Star? It will be fascinating to see whether Love will find his way back into the starting lineup for Game 4 (if he's cleared to play), or whether veteran and UA alum Richard Jefferson, who had nine points and eight rebounds in Game 3, will make another start in his place.
3. Which J.R. Smith will show up?
Toward the end of Cleveland's Game 3 victory, Cardinals linebacker Kareem Martin made this observation about Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith:
This series goes as JR goes
— Kareem Martin (@reemthedream_95) June 9, 2016
There seems to be something to that. Smith scored just eight combined points in Cleveland's losses in Games 1 and 2 but put up 20 points, including five 3-pointers, in Game 3's blowout win. An effective Smith definitely opens things up for LeBron and the Cavs; can he be as productive in Game 4?
I picked the Cavaliers to win Game 3, but I didn't expect them to demolish Golden State as they did. Cleveland was clicking on all cylinders, while everything the Warriors typically do well wasn't working on Wednesday.
That's why it's tempting to pick Cleveland once again. But here's the thing: Of the 32 teams in NBA Finals history who fell behind 2-0, only eight have evened the series at 2-2. History is on the Warriors' side, as is Curry, who is due to play like the man who has earned back-to-back MVP honors. Look for Golden State to turn things around and go home with a chance to close out the Cavs and earn their second straight title on Monday.
Warriors 108, Cavaliers 99