Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers

Three things to watch in Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals

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LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant (Getty Images)

The Warriors are headed to Cleveland in a familiar position - up 2-0 with the momentum of the NBA Finals clearly in their favor.

In 2016, the Cavaliers split their games at home before completing the unlikeliest of comebacks. In 2017, they lost Game 3 and bounced back in Game 4 with a historic offensive showing, only to then lose Game 5 in Golden State despite a 41-point performance from LeBron James. Will history repeat itself, or are the Cavaliers destined to be swept?

Here are three things to watch for in a must-win Game 3 for the Cavaliers...

Stephen Curry's 3-point shooting

When Curry shoots the way he did in Game 2, there's almost nothing that can be done to stop the Warriors. Of the nine 3-pointers he made on Sunday, six came off the dribble. Some of those were even several feet beyond the line, such as this one at the end of the first half:

As well as this one over Kevin Love in the fourth quarter that put the nail in the coffin:

The Cavaliers don't have many players who can switch onto Curry and keep him in front of them on an island. The problem is they don't have the rim protection to run him off the line either, especially when he's sharing the court with Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston. The Warriors made 20 of their 25 attempts in the restricted area in Game 2, the bulk of which weren't heavily contested.

The Warriors know how to play off Curry's hot hand, too, by rolling hard to the basket to make the defense pay for doubling him in pick-and-rolls or slipping off-ball screens to beat the inevitable switch. The former is how JaVale McGee, who started Game 2 and finished with 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting in 17 minutes, ended up with a dunk on the opening possession of the first quarter.

If Curry continues to play at this rate, there's a good chance he'll be named Finals MVP for the first time in his career.

Kevin Durant's willingness to pass

When Steve Kerr told Durant a story about Michael Jordan in the middle of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals - a game in which it took the Warriors star an uncharacteristic 22 shots to score 29 points - his message was clear: Trust your teammates, and it'll make the game easier for you.

Game 2 of the NBA Finals was a perfect example of that. Whereas Durant finished a hard-fought Game 1 with six assists and eight potential assists, he finished Game 2 with seven assists and 15 potential assists. He struck the perfect balance between looking for his own shot when he had a mismatch and using the threat of his scoring to create opportunities for others when the Cavaliers collapsed on his drives, and it contributed to the Warriors having one of their more efficient scoring nights of the season.

Durant assisted McGee on four of his six baskets, and set up Curry, Thompson and David West once each.

As for his own scoring, Durant put up 26 points on 14 shot attempts in Game 2. Kerr might have been onto something.

Golden State's help defense on LeBron James

The Warriors had no answer for James in Game 1. It didn't cost them the win, but LeBron came close to stealing a game on Golden State's home court with one of the greatest individual performances in NBA Finals history: 51 points, eight assists and eight rebounds on an efficient 19-for-32 shooting from the field.

Game 2 was a different story.

While LeBron still had a strong game (29 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds on 10-for-20 shooting), he didn't come close to having the same impact as he did in Game 1. Durant deserves some of the credit, though he received a lot of help from his teammates.

Just look at how reluctant and unaware the Warriors were when it came to providing help defense on LeBron's drives in Game 1...

... compared to how aggressively they helped off their assignments in Game 2:

Also notice how James' primary defender - Curry above, Kevon Looney below - funneled the four-time MVP toward help in Game 2, as opposed to letting him dictate the terms like he often did in Game 1.

It came at a cost of 13 assists, but the Warriors will likely live with James setting up his teammates with that many baskets if it means he's not scoring as easily and frequently as he did in Game 1. And it's unlikely to get much easier for LeBron and the Cavaliers with Andre Iguodala potentially returning for Game 3.

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