Cleveland barely survived at home in overtime, while Golden State put its foot on the gas and turned in a road blowout. Two different paths, but each team put itself on the brink of a conference finals sweep with Game 3 victories this weekend.
The Cavs’ 114-111 win over the Hawks was by far the most compelling game and if Atlanta’s Al Horford isn’t ejected for throwing an elbow, the Hawks almost certainly win the game. But the Horford ejection, combined with a big dose of LeBron James and a huge Tristan Thompson rebound, pushed Cleveland over the top.
LeBron started off ice cold and missed his first ten shots, but without Kyrie Irving in the lineup, LeBron kept firing and ended up making 14-of-37 shots—or a solid 14/27 after the awful start. He ended up with 37 points and more important, his 18 rebounds led another dominant Cleveland outing on the boards.
In spite of this, Atlanta had taken a 111-109 lead and forced a missed shot on the defensive end. TheSportsNotebook has been touting Thompson’s importance as a rebounder all postseason and this play was the exact reason why—he gets the offensive board and quickly moves it back outside.
The best time to shoot a three is off the offensive rebound, as the defense is scattered. LeBron gets a clean look from behind the arc and drills it. It was the biggest play in Cleveland’s ultimate win.
Atlanta hasn’t been a good rebounding team all year and it’s cost them badly in this series, where the presence of Horford and Paul Millsap down low is their only real advantage against Cleveland. I haven’t seen enough Hawks games all season, and I’m going to frankly admit that I don’t understand how a team with these two players up front can be such a poor rebounding team.
GOLDEN STATE BLASTS HOUSTON
After putting up noble fights in close losses out west, it was a disappointment that Houston basically mailed it in on their home floor. They were outrebounded 60-39, as Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green controlled the boards.
Steph Curry looked like an MVP, with 40 points and James Harden looked like a broken man, after his two brilliant games out west had ended up with his mistake on the final possession of Game 2. Harden shot just 3-for-16 in the 115-80 shellacking.
Both of these series are basically over and TheSportsNotebook’s NBA coverage will resume when one or both of Golden State and Cleveland clinches and we take a look at the overall playoff performances and how they reached the Finals. We won’t bother with game coverage unless either series reaches a sixth game.
The Warriors go to clinch tonight in Houston at 9 PM ET on ESPN. The Cavs look to wrap it up at home tomorrow night at 8:30 PM ET on TNT.