After losing Game 2 of the NBA Finals by 33 points, the Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 3 by 30.
That’s a 63-point difference. That’s mind-blowing.
Jerry Stackhouse, though, wasn’t too surprised.
“It’s role players, man,” the former NBA All-Star and current Raptors assistant coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Role players tend to play better at home. They have more confidence at home, and it’s harder for them to get into their groove and get their confidence on the road. That’s what you’re seeing. J.R. Smith, who was pretty much a no-show out in the Bay Area, come back home. Kyrie Irving was better. Tristan Thompson (was better). I’m not saying Kyrie Irving is a role player. He’s definitely one of the stars of that team, but you look at the energy those guys had when they got their crowd behind them. I think it could very well be a seven-game series, but I just don’t think Cleveland will find find a way to beat them out their on (the Warriors’) home court.”
LeBron James scored a game-high 32 points, while Irving, Smith and Thompson had 30, 20 and 14, respectively. That’s 96 points from four players.
The Cavs will take that.
They’ll also take the defensive intensity they had without offensive-minded Kevin Love, who missed Game 3 with a concussion. Even if Love is ready for Game 4, Stackhouse wouldn’t necessarily go back to business as usual.
“I’d go with what works,” he said. “Obviously I want to make sure he’s healthy and ready to contribute, but I would obviously talk to him and kind of get his feedback. I know he wants to play and be out there from the beginning, but you saw something that works. You came out with a ton of energy. Inserting Richard Jefferson into the lineup, it boded well for them. As a coach, I don’t want to alienate a player that I know I’m going to need before this series is over, but at the same time, I want to roll with the momentum of what’s working right now.”
Looking at his own team, Stackhouse said the Raptors took a “huge step” this year in advancing to the conference finals and taking two games from the Cavs. Their biggest step this offseason, though, will be signing DeMar DeRozan to a long-term deal.
“(He) definitely has to be the No. 1 one priority of getting him back into the fold,” Stackhouse said. “Bismack Biyombo, who was unbelievable for us in the playoffs this year, hopefully he hasn’t created too big of a market for himself. We’re a collective unit. As good as our guards have been, they’re really good because of the pieces around them. Our top eight guys have contributed in a number of ways all season long to help us get to where we are, so we want to try to keep everybody intact.”
DeRozan, 26, averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists this season and will be a highly coveted free agent.
“It’s always great to be wooed,” Stackhouse said. “You don’t get a chance to be a free agent too often, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to take all of those visits and listen to different teams, which he should. He’s earned the right to do so. But I think getting to know DeMar a little bit, I just think he’s a creature of habit. He loves it in Toronto, and for him to see the franchise go to the conference finals, I don’t think he wants to run away from that. So my gut says that he’ll be back, but at the same time, I understand it’s a business. I’ve been around it a long time, so things can change pretty quickly. But we all want him back into the mix. That’s a huge void to fill if he’s not back with us.”