CLEVELAND -- Third quarters have been the downfall of the Cleveland Cavaliers in each of their three losses during the 2017 NBA Playoffs, particularly in Games 1 and 2 of The Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
But as the best-of-seven series shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 tonight, the Cavaliers know good second-half play will go a long way in determining the outcome of The Finals.
“The importance of the third quarter definitely has to be a main focus of ours, especially if we have any chance in the game,” Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said. “Because the last two, three quarters, they have come out and jumped on us and done it in a very significant way.”
The Warriors turned a one-possession contest into a lopsided affair by outscoring the Cavaliers by 11 points in the third quarter of Game 2.
Up by three points after the first half, the Warriors scored 35 over the next 12 minutes and built a 102-88 advantage after the third quarter of play, thanks in large part to the shooting of point guard Stephen Curry and small forward Kevin Durant.
Curry and Durant each knocked down three of their six looks from the field, with the two-time MVP guard burying a pair of three-pointers and hitting all four of his free-throw attempts on the way to a 12-point performance in the quarter.
Curry added seven rebounds, five assists and one steal in the third quarter.
Durant scored nine points, which matched the nine James posted with his three field goals and two free throws in the period. Like James, Love tallied nine points on four-of-nine shooting, but hit only one of his three looks from three-point range in the third.
The Cavaliers knocked down just nine of their 26 attempts from the field in the third quarter.
“Whether that be a quick foul or a quick 3-pointer and it gives them that confidence in order to spread out this lead and we allow them to feel comfortable, then it can happen like that. And it could change in a matter of freakin’ 30 seconds with this team,” Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said. “This is an important test for us, and we need to be as prepared as we can be. And we will. You just get excited thinking about it because we know we can play better.”
In order for the Cavaliers to overcome those second-half lulls, James knows the key is to “take great shots and not turn the ball over.”
“We had an opportunity last game,” James said. “We cut it to four, and then, they made a couple plays here.
“If I remember, I think it was 86-82, they come out, I did a stupid strip foul on Livingston, he hits two free throws, we come down and turn the ball over. And then, they hit a three and it went from a four-point game to a 10-point game that fast, so just can’t make bad plays against a team that’s that great.”