Leading Off

Cavaliers have shifted into a higher gear than Warriors

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova, right, hugs forward LeBron James (23) after the end of the overtime period of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova, right, hugs forward LeBron James (23) after the end of the overtime period of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. AP

The “Strength in Numbers” T-shirts that have swayed like a yellow sea in the backdrop of Warriors postseason home games at Oracle Arena won’t be there Tuesday night.

Any chants of “Warr-iors!” will be quickly drowned out by nearly 21,000 rabid Cavaliers fans wearing “All for One” T-shirts at Quicken Loans Arena during Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

What the Warriors will find in Cleveland is a city foaming at the mouth as it salivates for its first professional sports championship in 51 years. Leading Cleveland on this expedition is its prodigal son, LeBron James, who appears to be taking his title as “world’s greatest” to a new level.

Without his two sidekicks, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, James has placed the Cavaliers’ fortunes upon his broad shoulders. On Sunday night, James had a triple double – 39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists – and willed his band of no-name Cavaliers to a 95-93 overtime victory. Even after the Cavaliers blew an 11-point lead with just more than three minutes remaining, James would not allow his team to lose.

By contesting every Warriors pass, every Warriors shot, every Warriors possession, the Cavaliers have put their game in another gear. The Warriors, if anything, have downshifted.

The Warriors do not look like the confident bunch that lived and died on the three-point shot en route to a franchise-record 67 victories and only two home losses during the regular season. Stephen Curry, unable to shake his defender and unsure of his shot, hasn’t looked like the MVP.

Game 3 isn’t an elimination game, of course, but it certainly is big.

Losing to James and the Cavaliers and falling behind 2-1 on the road isn’t the same as falling behind 2-1 in the Western Conference semifinals to Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Victor Contreras: (916) 326-5527, vcontreras@sacbee.com, @sacbeevictor

Playbook

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