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NBA Finals Diary- Once More, With Feeling!!

Out of all the posts on Twitter Thursday morning, after the Cavaliers completely dismantled the Golden State Warriors 120-90 Wednesday night Game 3, this one was easily the most articulate, important and thoughtful post I saw:
"My favorite part of last night is Kyrie may have figured out that the biggest component to defense might be giving a shit about it."
Yes! Yes again! 

You know who wrote those words, don't you? One of the better basketball minds around. In fact, probably one of the brightest, wisest, most engaging, best looking people you're going to find on Twitter, or anywhere really.

It was me.
That's truly what Stuck with me after the 30-point win in which Kyrie Irving went off in the first half and the rest of the Cavaliers followed suit. For the first time in forever, Irving looked to me like he was engaged on both ends of the floor and, even more so, was prideful of his play on both ends of the court.

Irving got help on Stephen Curry occasionally. But for a lot of the evening he played Steph straight up. He bumped him, grabbed his jersey, and fought over more screens than he went under or switched. What he did, when you get to the bottom line, is physically manhandled the leagues unanimous MVP while also carrying the Cavs in the first quarter offensively.

And Steph wore it like a mistreated puppy. All night long his binky helicoptered around between his mouth, his nose and his left ear. He hung his head. He shook his head. He missed and missed and missed in the critical time between the Cavs taking a big lead and the Warriors somehow erasing it.

The humble MVP. The man unanimously voted the best player in the game the last two seasons, scored two points and had three fouls in the first half of play and simply wasn't a factor in the least on Wednesday night.

And while Irving was harassing Steph when the Warriors had the ball, the Cavaliers were embarrassing Steph when they had it. LeBron James, who finished with 32 points in Game 3, seemed to actually be calling out and isolating whomever Steph was guarding. And whomever Steph was guarding simply went one on one with the humble superstar and usually scored or got Steph to commit one of his four fouls trying to stop someone from scoring.

And while all that was critical, and while Kyrie and the Cavaliers made the humble superstar look like a sniveling, petty, 6-year old child, it needs to keep happening for the remainder of the series. You have the blueprint if you're the Cavaliers.

It's called hard work, doing shit that you don't like to necessarily do and playing the game with an intensity that can't be duplicated in the regular season, but can't be lacking at all in the next two to four games.

Maybe the Cavs found it. Maybe they needed to see it work. Maybe they slept though many of their regular wins and through most of the playoffs until Wednesday night when it became clear that talent and a sweet handle and some gorgeous moves around the basket just aren't enough to beat the Warrior four times in a series.

Maybe Kyrie and J.R. Smith figured out you can be famous and be loved for defensive stops. And that when you get those you get opportunities to put the ball in the basket like you have your whole life. I think Kyrie, specifically, learned Wednesday night the amount of work and effort on both ends that winning an NBA title might require.

And just as importantly as figuring that out, he answered the challenge and got it done. Kyrie isn't just a freak athlete with the ball in his hands. Those same quick feet and that same strength he has and uses to get to the rim and absorb contact can be utilized to prevent guys from getting to the rim and initiating contact.

But Kyrie had all kinds of 'want-to' in Game 3. He needs the same amount or more tonight in Game 4 if the Cavs hope to even the series and make this interesting. Because Wednesday is meaningless if you lose tonight. Win tonight and you have a shot. Lose tonight and it's as over as it would have been losing Game 3.

And the Warriors will change things up to make it tougher on the Cavs defensively. Kyrie is going to get hit and screened and bumped and pushed. But he needs to bring the same intensity and effort tonight regardless of all that.

It looked like a light went on Wednesday night. It look like Kyrie figured some shit out. So once more, with feeling, tonight, boys.

Go punch that team in the face for 48 minutes and see who's standing when the final bell rings.
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