Tonight, for the first time in these NBA Finals, the Cavaliers held a second-half lead. They held a fourth-quarter lead. They were actually playing credible defense. Kyrie Irving was making all sorts of ridiculous drives to the basket with no one there to stop him. LeBron was LeBron. It felt, if not quite natural, certainly at least somewhat reasonable to believe that they were actually going to take this one.
And then the Warriors went on an 11-0 run in the game’s closing minutes to restore the natural order of the series with the cool, crisp efficiency of a clean and unfeeling murder in what was ultimately a 118-113 victory. The Cavs panicked and had nothing, Kyrie more than anyone. (Though Kyle Korver deserves special mention here, too, with a bad-look missed three and subsequent foul in the game’s final minute.) Golden State took their lead back on a Kevin Durant three with 45 seconds to play, and there was nothing left for Cleveland from there:
LeBron was at his most jaw-droppingly insane. He scored 39, with 11 rebounds and nine assists and his sort of super-human drive that seems to make something so wild as a victory against this iteration of Golden State seem within reach. And still, on that kind of night, Cleveland came up short.
That statistic is, perhaps, the single best way to communicate simultaneously how talented LeBron is and how damn hopeless this series has been for him.
Game 4 is on Friday.