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.