LeBron James discusses how the Warriors defended him and says the odds being stacked against him are nothing new. (1:02)
OAKLAND, Calif. — Whatever solace the Cleveland Cavaliers could take back to their home court for Game 3 of the NBA Finals — knowing they let a win slip away in Game 1 and had their chances in Sunday’s 122-103 Game 2 loss to the Golden State Warriors — LeBron James said his team better stay on edge.
“We’ve got an opportunity to go home, and we played some really good basketball on our home floor. But that shouldn’t give us any comfort,” James said. “We should still be uncomfortable with the series as we were in Game 1 and as we were tonight.”
James is 3-4 in his career coming back from an 0-2 deficit in the playoffs, improving that mark in the Eastern Conference finals last month when James and the Cavs dropped the first two games in Boston only to complete the series comeback by beating the Celtics in Game 7 on the road.
Yet despite their success against the Celtics and the fact the Cavs held their ground for the most part to open up this series, the last thing James wants his team to do is ease up.
“We want to continue to be uncomfortable,” James said. “Just because we’re going home doesn’t mean we can relax. This is the last team in the world you want to relax against. They’ve proven they can win on someone else’s floor. They’ve proven they can win on someone else’s floor and do it in any fashion, in any way.”
Indeed, the Warriors won the 2015 Finals in Game 6 at Quicken Loans Arena, and they used an 11-0 run at the end of Game 3 of the 2017 Finals at The Q to build a 3-0 lead in the series before eventually winning it in five games.
James was far and away the Cavs’ best player again Sunday — finishing with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 13 assists, but it was actually an off night for him compared to what he had accomplished in the 2018 playoffs following a loss, when he had been averaging 39.7 points on 59 percent shooting, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists in six such games.
Still, he said his small dip in production had little to do with whatever the Warriors were doing.
“I think I only got tired once tonight,” James said. “I mean, they doubled me a few times when I caught the ball in the post, something they didn’t do in Game 1. So I got off the ball, trusted my teammates. But as far as working harder, I think I got tired once.”
One thing the Cavs did tire of was talk about the officiating. Following Game 1, most of the talk coming out of the visitors locker room was about how the referees overturned an offensive foul on Kevin Durant in the final minute of the fourth quarter, as well as other calls the Cavs felt should have gone their way. After Game 2, that chatter ceased.
“I’m over referee s—,” Tristan Thompson said. “At the end of the day, if you don’t give effort and you don’t play hard, you know you’re never going to give yourself a chance to win. At the end of the day, you can control what you can control.”
Lue, similarly, did not care to elaborate on his complaint that earned him a rare technical foul after James turned the ball over following a long outlet pass with 3:54 remaining in the third quarter when both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson appeared to make contact with his body.
“I really didn’t say much, but I was on the court,” Lue said. “You can’t step on the court, I guess, is the rule. But there ain’t a lot of room between the sideline and the court. But, you know, they didn’t call it, so it’s over.”
The Finals will be effectively over if the Cavs don’t find a way to win Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, ABC).
“To win a championship in the NBA you got to have some grit, some balls and some bad m—–f—–s,” Thompson told ESPN. “If you don’t have all three, you’re not winning.”
Lue pointed to the Cavs’ lack of physicality from the start, as the Warriors went 7-for-7 to open the first quarter and ran out to a nine-point lead.
“It was too easy on them,” Lue said. “They ran around a little too freely.”
While James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,318 points) for second place on the all-time Finals scoring list Sunday (in 47 games, compared to Abdul-Jabbar’s 56), he also passed Elgin Baylor for the second-most Finals losses in history, falling to 18-29 in the championship round, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I mean, it sucks to lose,” James said. “It sucks when you go out there and you give it everything that you have and you prep and your mind is in it and your body is in it and you come out on the losing end. But nothing would ever take the love of the game away from me. I think the love of the competition is something I live for and something I wake up every day and train my body for and train my mind for. Yeah, I mean, it sucks to lose, that’s for sure, but it definitely won’t stop me from preparing to be better the next day.”
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