Cavaliers face now-or-never home stand in NBA Finals
by Jim SLATER / Agence France-Presse
Defending champion Golden State has seized command of the NBA Finals as the series shifts to Cleveland, where the Cavaliers must continue their home playoff magic to sustain any title hopes.
The Warriors, seeking their third crown in four seasons, could complete a sweep in the best-of-seven showdown with road wins Wednesday and Friday after taking a 2-0 edge with a 122-103 home triumph Sunday.
“I don’t think we’re close to our ceiling, which is good for us,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green. “We can play so much better. We’re going to need that going out on the road.”
While the Cavaliers made the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history from 3-1 down to beat Golden State in 2016, no team has ever rallied from 3-0 down to win the title.
“We have to make sure that we really bring it in game three because that’s really the game right there,” Cavs forward Kevin Love said. “This is a team you don’t want to be down 0-3 against.”
The Cavaliers are 8-1 at home in this year’s playoffs, losing only in their first-round opener against Indiana.
“We feed off our crowd. We really get up to play at home. We know that come Wednesday we’re going to have to be better,” Love said. “Just being in front of our crowd will be huge for us.”
But the Cavaliers, facing Golden State in the finals for the fourth year in a row, are only 4-4 against the Warriors at home in all finals.
“We have to do a better job at home,” Cavs guard J.R. Smith said. “We can’t keep taking positives from losses. We’re doing some good things, but it’s not translating into Ws so we’ve got to figure it out.”
– James wants discomfort –
The Cavaliers were the most recent victims of an NBA Finals sweep, being blanked by San Antonio in 2007 in the first finals trip for LeBron James, now playing in an eighth consecutive finals and ninth overall.
“It sucks to lose, that’s for sure, but it definitely won’t stop me from preparing to be better,” James said. “We’ve played some really good basketball on our home floor. But that shouldn’t give us any comfort. We should still be uncomfortable.
“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.”
James won two titles with Miami and achieved his goal of bringing a crown to his home region, but the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player would fall to 3-6 in the finals with a loss this year.
The Warriors have imposed themselves upon the Cavs early and see that as crucial for more success.
“We’ve got to come out with a sense of urgency to start,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “They have only lost one game so they are very confident there. We’ve just got to come out, stick to our game plan, keep playing hard and we’ll be fine.”
– Warriors won’t relax –
It will be hard for Golden State to top game two, when Stephen Curry sank a finals-record nine 3-pointers in a 33-point effort.
“We had some slip-ups and things we can correct going into game three,” Curry said. “But the energy and effort and physicality and all that from the jump was pretty dialed in and it gave us a lot of momentum and confidence.”
Warriors guard Klay Thompson, playing despite a left ankle injury in the opener, says Golden State has a strong focus knowing the Cavaliers rallied from 2-0 down to beat Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.
“It’s nothing to feel happy about being up 2-0,” Thompson said. “This team plays great at home and we expect their other guys to play even better at home, too, not just LeBron, so we’re not going to relax at all.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue stressed the need for a body-banging style from his squad.
“We have to start the game better, being more physical,” Lue said. “It was too easy for them. They ran around a little too freely. They might get some shots, but we’ve got to take away the easy ones.” (AFP)