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LeBron Had the Most to Lose in Game 3 — but He Won It

Getty Images
Getty Images

Forget Kevin Love. Forget Kyrie Irving. Forget Tyronn Lue. And forget Iman Shumpert’s hair stylist. The figure with the most to lose in Game 3 of the NBA Finals was LeBron James.

Kyrie’s disappointing play was the story coming out of Game 2, and Love’s addition-by-subtraction absence will surely dominate headlines Thursday. But this is LeBron’s team — he played a major role in the Cavs’ current construction, up to and including the head coach. LeBron played passively, if well, in the first two games of the series, with near triple-doubles in both contests. During the Toronto series, LeBron brushed off questions about adversity, saying after Game 5: “I’ve been a part of some really adverse situations, and I just didn’t believe that this was one of them.” It was a nice bit of propaganda — diminishing the Raptors while reassuring Cavs fans.

There was no soft-selling the importance of Game 3 against Golden State. This was probably the most adverse situation of LeBron’s career: down 0–2 in the Finals to one of the greatest teams of all time. And he responded like it was Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

LeBron’s numbers were great — 32–11–6 on 14-of-26 shooting — but they hardly tell the whole story. For the first time in these Finals, he radiated swagger, especially with his much-maligned jumper.

He barked on defense, hyped up the crowd, and got in Steph Curry’s head:

Pissed-off LeBron is the best LeBron, and in Game 3 he was furious.