Cleveland Cavaliers v Golden State Warriors

Three things to watch in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Finals

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LeBron, Durant, Hill and Curry (Getty Images)

The Warriors are going into Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Finals with an opportunity to sweep the Cavaliers for the second season in a row. In 2017, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James combined for 71 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists in a blowout win for Cleveland that sent the series back to Oakland for one more game.

Can the Cavaliers do it again? Here are three things to watch in Game 4.

How the Cavaliers defend Stephen Curry

Cleveland's strategy in Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals was to switch every pick-and-roll Stephen Curry was involved in. It's how Kevin Love - the Cavs' most limited perimeter defender in the starting lineup - ended up guarding the two-time MVP more than anyone else on their roster in Game 2, when Curry set an NBA Finals record with nine 3-pointers en route to a game-high 33 points.

To prevent those same breakdowns from happening in Game 3, the Cavaliers were more selective with their switches, often choosing to trap Curry when Love's assignment came to set a screen. Doing so helped limit him the Warriors star to 11 points on 3-for-16 shooting from the field, and yet sending multiple defenders at him opened up scoring opportunities for others.

Draymond Green, who finished Game 3 with a team-high nine assists, was the biggest beneficiary on those traps. Even when he wasn't the roll man, Curry would often give the ball up to him on the wing for him to attack the defense downhill, paving the way for him to lob the ball up to JaVale McGee and Jordan Bell when a help defender rotated over.

Curry's gravity also came into play on one of the final possessions of the game, when Green pushed Golden State's lead to six points with a wide open dunk off of an assist from Curry.

The Cavaliers should try to make Green a scorer as opposed to a passer when they can, but even that is unlikely to slow the Warriors down enough to beat them because they're built handle every coverage in the book.

Rodney Hood's response to Game 3

One of the positives coming out of Game 3 for the Cavaliers was the play of Rodney Hood.

In his 25 minutes off the bench, the former Blue Devil scored 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting, pulled down six rebounds (two of which came on the offensive glass) and blocked one shot. While he didn't record a single assist, Hood gave the Cavaliers something they've been missing desperately in these playoffs - a creator in the backcourt who can take some of the playmaking burden off of LeBron James.

Hood's potential in that regard was why the Cavaliers made a move for him at the trade deadline. The problem is Game 3 of the NBA Finals was one of his better performances since he made his debut with Cleveland on Feb. 11.

If Hood puts together another strong showing in Game 4, it would give the Cavaliers a chance of extending the series. It would set him up well for restricted free agency starting on July 1, too, by reminding teams of the player who averaged 16.8 points per game with the Jazz at the start of the season.

The Finals MVP race

Assuming the Warriors go on to win their third championship in four years, the Finals MVP will likely come down to Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

Curry was in good shape to win the award for the first time in his career after Games 1 and 2, but he struggled more in Game 3 than Durant did in Game 1. Durant, meanwhile, had an hyper-efficient Game 2 before exploding for 43 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in Game 3. He carried the Warriors the entire night and hit the biggest shot of the series once again to give Golden State a 3-0 series lead.

Player PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3PT% FT%
Kevin Durant 31.7 10.3 6.7 0.7 1.7 55.9 47.4 95.2
Stephen Curry 24.3 6.0 7.7 1.0 0.0 38.5 39.5 100

That probably gives Durant the slight edge heading into Game 4, though a masterful performance by Curry in a closeout game might be enough to sway voters.

Let's see which one of them steps up in what could be the final game of the season.

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