CLEVELAND, USA – They won’t change the starting lineup or slow the tempo, but the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers are counting on a momentum-changing victory in Wednesday’s, June7 (Thursday in Manila) third game of the NBA Finals.
Trailing Golden State 2-0 in the best-of-7 championship series, the Cavs come home after two lopsided road losses hoping for a repeat of last year, when a game-3 win set the stage for the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history.
“We got our asses kicked and now we’re at game 3 and we’ve got a challenge in front of us,” Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving said, mindful last year’s Warriors did not have star forward Kevin Durant as this year’s team does.
“You understand the journey and how much energy it took from a mental and physical standpoint to come back from something like that. But you know it’s definitely possible. It’s going to come from a very special place, and we’re going to need everyone to understand how important game 3 is.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said superstar LeBron James and his teammates all must step up their game to avoid falling 3-0 down to the Warriors, a hole no team in NBA playoff history has ever recovered from to win a series.
“I’m not making a change,” Lue said. “We all have to play better and we will. It’s not just LeBron, it’s our whole team.
“We’ve got to play with pace, but we can’t get in a hurry. We can’t take bad shots. We can’t turn the basketball over.”
James is averaging 28.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 11.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocked shots a game. Last year, he led both finals teams in every category, an unprecedented feat, and hoisted the team upon his shoulders in a victory run.
“It takes a mental toll when you lose. So you’ve got to try to focus on the next game and your job and what you can do to help your team be successful,” James said. “Take great shots and not turn the ball over. Just can’t make bad plays against a team that great.”
Irving has averaged 21.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, below or just at his playoff averages.
“Whether I have the ball in my hands or not, an impact needs to be made on the game,” Irving said. “I know how important I have to be in order for us to have any chance at this series. I relish that challenge.”
‘Kind of boneheaded plays’
Irving said the losses didn’t look so bad in film reviews.
“You understand the things that you can’t control, they’re just kind of boneheaded plays,” he said. “We can be better. They’re an incredible team. But we understand that also we have specific matchups that we can attack as well and we need to do that.”
In each win, Golden State surged ahead to big leads in the third quarter, prompting Irving to say preventing that has to be a focus for the Cavaliers.
“The last two third quarters they have come out and jumped on us and done it in a very significant way,” Irving said. “And it could change in a matter of freakin’ 30 seconds with this team. So this is an important test for us and we need to be as prepared as we can be. And we will be.”
Lue said the Cavs must maintain their intensity.
“A lot of it is just being aware, staying alert,” Lue said. “With this team, you can’t relax at all. If you relax, they make you pay.” – Jim Slater, Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
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