Warriors vs Cavs NBA Finals
NBA

NBA Finals on Sling: Cavs & Warriors Living by the 3 and Dying by the 3

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ long-range snipers awoke from their slumber Friday, just in time to save the season by putting on the greatest 3-point shooting display in NBA history. In this battle of two of the league’s premier 3-point shooting teams, each victory has been secured from beyond the arc, and, ironically, it remains the Cavs best hope against the Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors revolutionized the game of basketball with their penchant for 3-pointers, reaching their pinnacle during last season’s 73-win campaign by hitting 1,077 shots from beyond the arc at a 41.6% clip — the former a league record, the latter second-best all time. But this year the league — including the Cleveland Cavaliers — played catch-up, while the Dubs slipped back to the pack, hitting “just” 982 3’s (the 5th most most all time, but only 4th best this season), for a 38.3 shooting percentage from downtown. Among their betters in both 3-pointers hit and 3-point percentage was the Cavs, who sank 1,067 (3rd-best all time, 2nd-best this season), hitting 38.4% from beyond the arc.

Through the first three games of the 2017 NBA Finals, however, the Warriors reasserted their primacy as the league’s premiere long-range threat, draining more 3’s than the Cavs — 46 to 31 — with a higher success rate — 42.2% to 29.8%. In sum, the Warriors outscored the Cavs by 45 points from 3-point land, while outscoring them by 46 points overall. Fittingly, in the one close matchup of the series, Game 3, which the Warriors won 118-113, it was a Kevin Durant 26-footer that put the Dubs up for good with just 45 seconds to play. Is it reductivist to hang the results of the first three games entirely on the teams’ relative 3-point shooting? Sure. But it’s definitely a big chunk of the puzzle.

And oh how the worm turned in Game 4, as the Cavs unleashed the deadliest 3-point assault ever, hitting 24 of 45 (both all-time marks for regular or postseason) en route to a 137-116 victory that kept alive Cleveland’s slim hopes of defending their improbable title of last year. The fusillade was led by Kevin Love (6 of 8), Kyrie Irving (7 of 12), and JR Smith (5-9), who scored all 15 of his points from outside, freeing up LeBron James to post his record 9th Finals triple-double, 31-10-11.

Last year the Cavs put together the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history by climbing out of a 3-1 hole. To defend their title this year will require an even greater comeback, one that will be impossible to engineer without the likes of Love, Irving and James hitting from way out. The team that shot better from the 3-point land has won all four games this series, and the Cavs were the better 3-point shooting team all season, so, maybe, just maybe… but it’s a long shot.

 

Game 5, Monday

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors

@ 9pm ET on ABC/ESPN3

Game 6, Thursday (If necessary)

Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers

@ 9pm ET on ABC/ESPN3

Game 7, Sunday (If necessary)

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors

@ 8pm ET on ABC/ESPN3

 

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All stats courtesy ESPN and Basketball Reference

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