The Cavs responded to a return to Cleveland and an 0-2 deficit. The home team jumped on Golden State from the get-go. Cleveland scored the first six, marking their biggest lead of the Finals, and hardly looked back.
Many will point to the absence of Kevin Love due to concussion protocol and the insertion of Richard Jefferson in the starting lineup as the key to Cleveland's blowout victory. But Cleveland thrived because their role players played well at home, as role players are wont to do.
J.R. Smith shot over 50% from the field, nailed five threes, and scored 20 points. Smith had 8 total points in the two games in Oakland and shot 33%. It wasn't as if the game plan was any better in Game 3, Smith just hit tough shots in an arena in which he feels comfortable. Tristan Thompson averaged 9.5 pts and 8.5 rebs per game in Oakland, but 14 points and 13 rebounds in Game 3. Jefferson had 7 total rebounds, 1 steals, and zero rebounds in Oakland, but 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 assists in one game in Cleveland.
Kyrie Irving also played much better, again by making tough shots in his home arena. He set a personal Finals scoring record with 30 points. He shot 33% from the field in Oakland and was one for seven from distance, but made 48% of his field goals in Cleveland and went three for seven from the outside in Game 3.
Meanwhile, the Warriors were flat. Neither Stephen Curry nor Klay Thompson scored a point until nearly 18 minutes into the game. The All Star trio of Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green scored their fewest points the entire season. Curry did heat up a bit int he third quarter, but Cleveland still maintained a double digit lead.
Harrison Barnes (18 points), Andre Iguodala (11 points), and Leandro Barbosa (8 points) were bright spots in an otherwise dim game game for the Warriors.
Cleveland didn't win 120-90 because of Kevin Love's absence. Love scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Game 1 and neither of the Warriors' forwards dominated the game. In Game 2, however, Cleveland's fortunes deteriorated as soon as Love was elbowed in the back of the head. Draymond Green exploded with Love out. Barnes played well in Game 3 with Love out. Home cooking, not Love's absence allowed Cleveland to pull a game closer to Golden State in Game 3.