After a missed opportunity in Game 1 that included losing Kyrie Irving for the series, public perception all but gave the 2015 NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors. But LeBron James and his Cavaliers had other ideas, evening the series up at one game apiece as it shifts to Cleveland for Game 3.
Even amid the loss of Irving, these Finals haven't lost their luster.
Both games in Golden State were pushed to overtime and generated the highest ratings since ABC and ESPN began airing the Finals, according to Michael O'Connell of the Hollywood Reporter.
The intrigue will only peak heading back to Cleveland, as the Cavs look to hold on to their newfound home-court advantage and move closer to the franchise's first championship.
Although Cleveland returns home with the momentum, a champion's response is expected from Stephen Curry and Co. after a forgettable Game 2. Let's take a look at everything to know for Game 3, along with a prediction.
2015 NBA Finals: Game 3
Date: Tuesday, June 9
Start Time (ET): 9 p.m.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Game 3 Odds
|Warriors (-1) over Cavaliers||Warriors 20-21, Cavaliers 20-23||194.5|
Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, updated June 8 at 2 p.m. ET
Game 3 Preview: Warriors at Cavaliers
James had one of his signature games in Game 1, but it didn't prove to be enough. Another vintage performance could be forecast in Game 2, but this time, the King would need some help from a called-upon backup.
Just like in the Eastern Conference Finals, Matthew Dellavedova emerged from the background to play a central role in Game 2.
This time, however, it came against the league's reigning MVP. Curry shot just 5-for-23 in the loss but failed to score a single basket while being guarded by the Australian:
Not only did Dellavedova limit Curry, including big defense on a late shot to win in overtime, but he preceded that by grabbing a huge offensive rebound and drawing a foul with just 10 seconds left in the extra period.
He nailed both free throws to give the Cavs a one-point lead, and they never looked back, this time avoiding another gut-wrenching loss and evening the series.
Of course, it did take some dominance from James, who put up 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists on 11-of-35 shooting. He got snubbed on a few late no-calls, which seemed to only intensify his hunger, as Hardwood Paroxysm noted:
Although they couldn't overcome it this time, the Warriors can point to Game 1 and their late Game 2 comeback as proof that they can win in spite of James' greatness. That likely won't happen if Curry doesn't bounce back from a Game 2 performance that will go down in the record books for all the wrong reasons.
Curry's 13 missed three-point attempts are the most ever in a Finals game, but head coach Steve Kerr noted how he's seen the same sorts of games from basketball's greats:
The Warriors can rest easy knowing how close they were to victory despite Curry's struggles, but it took a seismic performance from Klay Thompson—34 points—just to keep them in it.
Perhaps more concerning for Golden State is the lack of success that Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green are finding, constantly getting worked by Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson in the post.
Just like in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Grizzlies, Curry will have to find his way past a defender who has found some success against him. And just like in that series, it will take more than one game to figure it out—especially on the road.
The Warriors won't be entering your typical Quicken Loans Arena, not after James called out his fans to bring it even better than Golden State did, per Joe Vardon of Northeast Ohio Media Group.
"I've heard our fans pretty loud before. A couple instances my first postseason appearance was really loud, and me coming home against the Knicks at the start of the season was pretty good," he said. "But I know we can be much, much louder than any fanbase in this league."
That sounds like a challenge with how ear-piercing the Warriors' home crowd has been, and the Cavs will be up for it. So, too, will James, who looks no worse for wear after carrying his team in the opening two games of these Finals.
J.R. Smith will continue to improve his consistency and avoid the head-scratching fouls that got the Warriors back into Game 2 to begin with, and Dellavedova will continue to frustrate Curry and prevent him from seeing open looks.
James will do the rest, taking control of the game and series to put Cleveland back in front.
Prediction: Cavaliers 93, Warriors 87