CLEVELAND There was a metaphor for the Cavaliers situation here in the NBA Finals, and it came in the first quarter of Game 3.
It was almost exactly at the midway point of the first quarter, and LeBron James was caught out of position after a Warriors offensive rebound. James scurried out toward the 3-point line to catch up with his defensive assignment just as Cavs big man Tristan Thompson was crossing the lane. Thompson wasn’t looking and didn’t see his hefty shoulder smack straight into James jaw.
They used that to keep Golden State out of striking distance. The Warriors cut the lead to 37-27 before Draymond Green was called for a technical foul (or so we thought), and that’s when Love put the finishing touches on that first-quarter run with a free throw and one more 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining.
Love finished with a team-high 14 points in a dazzling 49-point quarter. Cleveland shot 14 of 22 from the free-throw line and prompted 12 first-quarter fouls from the Warriors.
After that first quarter, they were only up, what, four points? From the second to the fourth, they only beat us by four points the last three quarters, Durant said. So that first quarter they came out and hit us with that amazing punch; 49 points in the first quarter is way too much.
That first quarter had an outside-in effect. From there, Cleveland set a physical tone, which became one of the leading topics of conversation in the postgame.