CLEVELAND — The sting of losing a seemingly insurmountable lead in last year’s NBA Finals still sits with the Warriors, but the memory of what happened the last two years is more prominent today.
“We’ve been here the last two years and gotten hammered twice in Game 3,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday following his team’s shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. “So we know what we’re up against.”
That sets the stage for Wednesday night’s third game of the NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers are trying to get back into the series after being run out of the Bay Area in the first two games. The Warriors are trying to avoid a repeat of last year when they came into Cleveland feeling supremely confident up 2-0. They were pummeled 120-90, and ultimately squandered a 3-1 lead and lost the title in Game 7.
“[It’s about] understanding the emotion that’s going to be in the arena but understanding what you have to do execution-wise to negate the momentum that the other team is going to bring with the crowd,” Kerr said. “For example try not to throw the ball to LeBron [James] early in the game and let him dunk with 20,000 people going crazy. That would be helpful.
“Let’s take care of the ball. Let’s wall them up in transition. Let’s try and take away their easy stuff early in the game and allow ourselves to settle in. I think last year we were down 17-4, 27-10. I looked at it yesterday. The force that they brought was remarkable. We didn’t stand up to it. We have to stand up to it better this time.”
Kerr thinks the Warriors are better equipped this year. The Warriors are certainly driven to erase the memory of last year’s meltdown, and they have hungry players, including Kevin Durant, who is seeking his first NBA championship.
Approaching Game 3 differently was brought up in the Warriors’ first-round series with Portland, Kerr said. Coming into this year, the Warriors were 2-6 in Game 3s – with all of them on the road. This year, they’re 3-0 in Game 3s and 14-0 overall.
“There’s an understanding between our guys that we haven’t been that good in Game 3,” Draymond Green said. “I think guys are locked in like I’ve never seen before, understand the task at hand and know that this is going to be the hardest game in the series. If we come out on top, we put ourselves in tremendous position.”
“We feel like this is a different team,” Kerr said. “Not just because of personnel but because of our cumulative experience over the last few years in the playoffs. We have a better handle of how you have to approach things. We understand what’s coming at us tonight, the force that they’re going to bring, and we have to stand up to that.”