LeBron James confident Cavs can bounce back against Warriors
OAKLAND, United States—LeBron James has never lost the first two games of an NBA playoff series and the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar doesn’t plan to start against Golden State in the NBA Finals.
James has a perfect 9-0 record in game two after his teams have lost the opener of a playoff series, and the Cavaliers will put that to the test Sunday after falling to the defending champion Warriors 104-89 on Thursday.
“I’m not discouraged at all,” James said Friday after analyzing video of the defeat. “We had some opportunities. We played some good basketball for 36 minutes.
“We definitely missed some really easy looks. We were able to get where we wanted to go. We’ve just got to knock them home.”
James had no explanation for his success in bouncing back from game one defeats.
“I’ve been part of some resilient teams,” James said. “My team has always been able to reevaluate, look at the mistakes in game one and come back.”
The Warriors will look to snap James’ streak on Sunday and seize a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series before the scene shifts to Cleveland for games Wednesday and next Friday.
“Sunday is a huge game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We would like to go take care of business and get out on the road with a 2-0 lead. But we’ve got to play well.”
The Warriors have beaten Cleveland six times in a row, three in last year’s NBA Finals and twice more in the regular season before Thursday’s 104-89 drubbing.
“Nothing has really changed,” James said. “They are a team that has another year under their belt. They have exceeded what they did last year.”
Golden State’s Draymond Green, however, dismisses any idea of complacency by the champions.
“It’s not like we have any control over them,” he said. “They are used to winning. They are going to battle. They are going to compete and they are super talented. You can’t come out saying, ‘We beat them six in a row. We’re good.’ Absolutely not. As soon as you do that and let your guard down, it’s a wrap.”
‘We can’t gift them points’
In the opener, the Cavaliers contained 3-point sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for only 20 points on 8-of-27 shooting, and outrebounded Golden State 47-41. But their bench was outscored 45-10 and Cleveland surrendered 25 points off 17 turnovers.
“We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We can’t gift them points. We’ll be better next game.”
Golden State won last year’s Finals opener then dropped two in a row to the Cavaliers, a fact Kerr made sure his players remember.
“It’s something we will talk about but I don’t think it will be a problem,” Kerr said. “We’re much more experienced. We have that memory in our mind. We’ve been through this and we understand you can’t let up ever.”
Cleveland missed a golden opportunity with Curry and Thompson shooting poorly.
“It’s a great sign we can win in the Finals without those two guys having big games,” Kerr said. “We’ve talked about our depth. We rely on a lot of people. We have a lot of talent on the bench that can come in and score when we need it.”
NBA scoring champion Curry, who sank a record 402 3-pointers this season, vows the Cavaliers will not silence him again.
“We’ll be able to find some adjustments for game two. Not worried about that,” Curry said.
James played 41 minutes but rested late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. In his absence, the Warriors went on a 13-2 run for an 84-70 lead just 2:17 into the final period.
James laughed off the notion he spent too long sitting, noting Golden State’s fast-paced scoring attack.
“They went up 14 in like 14 seconds,” James said. “How early do you want me to go back in?”
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