CLEVELAND — If LeBron James had to do it over again, he said he would have made the same play: drive and kick it to the corner for a Kyle Korver three-pointer. But Kyrie Irving wishes he had the next possession back.
After the Cavaliers went scoreless over the final 3:08 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, squandered a six-point lead in that time and lost, 118-113, Wednesday to fall behind 3-0 to the Warriors, there was plenty of second-guessing.
James took some heat for not taking the ball all the way to the basket with the Cavaliers up two with just under a minute left. He instead fed Korver in the corner.
But one possession later, after Kevin Durant sank a three-pointer to give Golden State a 114-113 lead with 45.3 seconds left, Irving ended up making an ill-advised decision.
Irving was one-on-one against Klay Thompson, a very good defender, up top. J.R. Smith came up to set a screen with Steph Curry guarding him. If the Warriors switched, it would have been a better matchup for Irving. But Irving waved off Smith, who flailed his arms in frustration and ran back to a spot behind the three-point line. Irving wound up taking a step-back three-pointer on Thompson that was very short with 26.5 seconds remaining.
“It necessarily wasn’t the right decision,” Irving said. “You have so many other options and you start replaying that play over and over. For me, it’s a comfortable shot.”
Irving had it going. He scored 38 points, and that’s a shot has taken and made many times. But with the game, and the series on the line, a better shot was needed.
“When it’s a do-or-die game like Game 3 you want to make that play,” Irving said, “not only for your team but just for your confidence. I’m always constantly unwavering with my confidence. But that’s the type of shot you want to nail.
“After the game it hurt. You feel like you let your teammates down because you didn’t necessarily make the right decision.”
On James’ play, he did what he’s done so many times: got the ball on the perimeter, made a move to the basket, drew the defense and found a shooter. Korver, one of the best shooters ever, didn’t convert the three.
So James heard the critics, and the comparisons to Michael Jordan again — as in Jordan would have taken that shot. Many times he would have, but Jordan also fed Steve Kerr in the 1997 Finals for the last shot that won the series.
“If I could have that play again, I would come off a three-screen situation,” James said. “Draymond (Green) would switch on me with five fouls. I would get him leaning. I would drive left. I would see KD step up. I would see Steph Curry drop on (Kevin) Love. And I would see Kyle Korver in the corner, one of the greatest three-point shooters in this league’s history, and give him an opportunity in the short corner.
“I would do the same exact thing.”