Displaying items by tag: NBA

No longer NBA champions, Cavaliers are now chasing Warriors

  • Published in Sports

By: Associated Press 

 

James spectacular again, but his efforts not enough for CavsNews

CLEVELAND — Once he congratulated Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, LeBron James left the floor following Game 5 and found Kyrie Irving waiting for him.

Cleveland’s two stars embraced, and as they headed toward the locker room and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played inside thundering Oakland’s Oracle Arena, James delivered a message to his teammate and the world.

“We’ll be back,” he said. “We’ll be back.”


They were fabulous and flawed defending NBA champs, their deficiencies in depth and defense exposed by a superior team in the Finals.

One year after their historic comeback, James and the Cavaliers couldn’t catch the Golden State Warriors.

Unable to defend their title despite the league’s highest payroll, rampaging through the Eastern Conference playoffs and James’ brilliance against the free-wheeling Warriors for five games, the Cavs are no longer the team to beat. They’re still championship caliber, but a step or two behind a glittering Golden State team that went 81-18 in Durant’s first season and built for the long haul.

At 32, and playing as well as ever in 14 seasons, James has a possible dynasty blocking his path.

“I need to sit down and figure this thing out,” said James, who averaged 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in his seventh consecutive Finals. “They’re going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. … From my eyes, they’re built to last a few years.”

The Cavaliers aren’t constructed for the same longevity.

James is under contract for one more season, and there’s no guarantee the three-time champion and five-time Finals loser will sign a long-term deal in 2018 with Cleveland despite his deep devotion to Northeast Ohio. Last week, James said he didn’t know how many years he has left. It’s possible that his outside business interests, which include a desire to one day own an NBA team, could push him into retirement.

That’s down the road. A more pressing concern for the team is the status of general manager David Griffin, whose contract expires on June 30.

Aided by having James to build around and owner Dan Gilbert’s willingness to spend, Griffin has assembled and overseen a roster that has made three straight Finals and is positioned to stay atop the East.

Griffin has been with the club since 2010, taking over as GM when Chris Grant was fired in 2014. He’s the one who persuaded Irving to sign a long-term deal with Cleveland before it was known that James was coming back and Griffin pulled off the trade for Kevin Love. He acquired veterans J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in 2015, fired coach David Blatt and promoted Tyronn Lue midway through the ’16 season and added Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut this year.

Gilbert and Griffin are expected to meet again this week. Griffin has been linked to past openings in Orlando, Atlanta and Milwaukee, but his preference is to stay with Cleveland as he and his wife, Meredith, have immersed themselves in the community.

Once the front office situation is settled, the next priorities are addressing Cleveland’s weaknesses: defense, an aging bench and backup point guard.

The Cavaliers couldn’t stop the Warriors during critical stretches in the Finals, and there were warning signs long before Durant got free for dunks, Curry drained wide-open 3-pointers or Golden State averaged 121.6 points.

Cleveland’s defense was suspect all season, ranking among the worst in statistical efficiency. The Cavs often outscored their mistakes, but the lack of a rim protector (Bogut was injured in his first minute on the floor) and a defensive commitment proved costly. Both areas must be fixed.

Korver, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and Deron Williams contributed during the regular season and earlier rounds against Indiana, Toronto and Boston, but with the exception of Jefferson, the seasoned vets were overmatched against the younger, quicker Warriors. Cleveland needs an infusion of young blood to fix a second unit that struggled from the opener.

Then there’s Love, who went just 2 of 8 in Game 5 and had 1-of-9 and 4-of-13 shooting performances earlier in the Finals. The All-Star forward has been the subject of trade rumblings in the past and his name is certain to surface this summer as contending teams look for that missing piece to close the gap on Golden State.

For James, second place is no consolation, not when success is measured by championship rings. There was no shame in falling for the second time in three years to the Warriors, a 73-win team that needed Durant to dethrone James.

His new challenge is to get back on top.

“Teams and franchises are going to be trying to figure out ways that they can put personnel together, the right group of guys together to be able to hopefully compete against this team,” he said. “They’re assembled as good as you can assemble, and I played against some really, really good teams that was assembled perfectly, and they’re right up there.”

 

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Stress test: High-wire Cavaliers still alive in NBA Finals

  • Published in Sports

Associated Press / 11:37 AM June 11, 2017

Photo: Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and teammate Kyrie Irving (2) celebrate during the first half against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Cleveland, Friday, June 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Go ahead, back them into a corner. Call them names. Write them off.

The Cavaliers don’t care.

For the fourth time in two years, Cleveland fought off elimination in the NBA Finals by winning just when it appeared their season was over.


On Friday night, the Cavs turned anger over some comments made by Golden State’s motor-mouthed forward Draymond Green into energy and their best performance this season. They broke scoring records in a stunning 137-116 victory that shoved this “Three-match” between new-school rivals to the West Coast for Game 5 on Monday.

And while most teams would prefer not to live on the edge, the Cavaliers seem to thrive there. The only team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, LeBron James and his buddies are basketball’s high-wire, high-risk act with no net to break their fall.

It’s dangerous, and not for the faint of heart.

“I don’t like it,” James said, drawing laughter after surpassing Magic Johnson in the record book with his ninth career Finals triple-double. “It causes too much stress, man. I’m stressed out. Keep doing this every year. But listen, at the end of the day we just got some resilient guys.”

The Cavaliers are still alive and have a chance to do what no other team has ever done in the NBA playoffs — rally from a 3-0 deficit.

It’s been done on big stages in other sports, perhaps most famously by the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who strung together four wins over the New York Yankees to win the AL pennant on the way to their first World Series title since 1918.

But in the 126 instances where NBA teams have fallen behind 3-0, none have recovered to win the series. Zero. That’s 0-126.

Maybe these chaotic Cavs are just the team to do it.


Stack up the odds, Cleveland conquers them.

“We’re a resilient group, resilient team,” said Kevin Love, who made 6 of 8 3-pointers and scored 23 points. “We have been in this situation before. Every year’s different, every playoff series, every game, but we just are a team that never count ourselves out.

“We feel like any game that we walk on the floor we have a great game plan and we expect to win. But we just continue to have that fire, continue to be resilient, but right now it’s just becoming one game at a time

“One quarter, each possession being huge for us, because that can make or break a team.”

But beyond their resiliency, the Cavs have displayed a mental toughness through all kinds of adversity. Over the past three years since James returned from Miami, the Cavs have handled injuries, constant scrutiny, drama — much of it self-inflicted— and even a midseason coaching change.

There doesn’t seem to be anything that rattles them, so it should be no surprise that on the verge of being swept by a Warriors team James called a “juggernaut” and “beast” before the Finals began, Cleveland dug down deep again.

Kyrie Irving knocked down seven of Cleveland’s 24 3-pointers — one of their three Finals scoring records — and had 40 points as the Cavs stopped Golden State’s 15-game postseason winning streak and lived to see another game.

The All-Star point guard, who made several Golden State defenders look silly with his darting moves, excels when things seem darkest. However, he can’t explain the defending champions’ ability to bounce back.

“Every game is do or die, and we understand that,” he said. “We’re ready to live in it.”

On Thursday, Green, whose suspension from last year’s Game 5 for hitting James in the groin helped swing the series to Cleveland, said he was looking forward to celebrating on Cleveland’s home floor for the second time in three years.

And while the comments didn’t come across as excessively brash given that they were from Green, Irving said the Cavs were offended and inspired by them.

“It’s part of the game,” Irving said. “But we knew what we were faced with. But then you add, of course, some chatter in there, and that adds some extra motivation. That taste wouldn’t have been the same if we would have lost tonight and they would have celebrated on our home floor. So I’ll just leave that at that.”

The Cavs were also well aware that in the final minutes of Game 3 that Stephen Curry stopped on the floor and squatted in what many perceived to be an insulting gesture.

The bottom line is that Cleveland has gotten these Finals to 3-1, a familiar situation that must give them a little comfort.

James, though, wouldn’t concede the Cavs have the Warriors right where they want them.

“No,” he said. “They got us where they want us. At the end of the day, we want to just try to put ourselves in position to play another game, and we did that and hopefully we can do it Monday night where we can come back here. So our mindset is try to go up there and get one.”

 

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Cavs ignore last year’s comeback after another 0-2 hole

  • Published in Sports

Associated Press

OAKLAND, California — LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are headed home in a familiar spot after the first two games of the NBA Finals.
Rather than reach back to last year’s championship comeback for a confidence boost, James’ focus is on figuring out what Cleveland must do to change its fortunes against a Warriors team that is fresher and far more dangerous this year, thanks to the addition of Kevin Durant.
“They’re a different team,” James said following a 132-113 loss in Game 2 on Sunday (Monday Manila time) that put Cleveland in an 0-2 hole.
That’s been quite evident through two games. Durant leads all players with 71 points the first two games — six more than the player he replaced in the lineup, Harrison Barnes, scored in seven games a year ago.
Durant’s scoring has taken pressure off Stephen Curry and allowed the Warriors to withstand Cleveland runs so well that they haven’t trailed after the first quarter in either game.

A healthy Curry followed up a 28-point Game 1 with his first postseason triple-double on Sunday with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He looks more like a two-time MVP than the hobbled player he was in last year’s Finals.
Klay Thompson shook off a shooting slump to score 22 points and the Warriors pulled away late for another lopsided win.
“They play well at home,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “They won their first two games like they’re supposed to. Coming to a tough environment, we knew it was going to be tough, but they won the first two games. We get a chance to go home now to our home crowd where we play well, also.”
The Cavs began to turn things around last year after being outscored by 48 points in the first two losses in Oakland — seven more than this year. They split the two games at home before reeling off three straight wins to become the fourth team to win the title after losing the first two games.
“They’re going keep to coming, man,” Curry said. “There is a lot of work for us left to do. And you got to expect them to play, obviously, better at home. And we’re going to need to play better to win on the road.”
What was so discouraging for the Cavs is that they played better in Game 2 but the result didn’t really change. They went to a smaller lineup that contributed to Golden State committing 20 turnovers a game after tying a Finals record with four.
The offense picked up thanks to 27 points from Kevin Love and the Cavs scored 22 more points than in the opener in a faster-paced game, but that also helped the Warriors improve their shooting from 43 percent to 52 percent as Cleveland had a weaker defensive on the floor.
“We definitely have a sense of what they’re capable of, and we felt like a lot of times tonight we played better basketball,” Love said. “But they’re a team you cannot — you can’t let them go on runs.”
The key one came late in the third quarter after Cleveland cut the deficit to four points. The Warriors followed with a 16-4 run that included 3-pointers from Curry and Thompson, a three-point play from Durant in transition and four points from Shaun Livingston.
“That’s what they do,” James said. “That’s what Golden State does. If you make a mistake — like I said, we had a turnover, it came from me, and then we had a miscue and the floods opened again.”
The first two games have shown a stark difference in depth. While James has thrived so far and had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists to tie Magic Johnson’s record with his eighth career Finals triple-double Sunday, he hasn’t gotten nearly enough help.
Kyrie Irving scored 24 points in the opener and Love had a big day in Game 2, but starters Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith have been nearly invisible and the bench has offered little help.
The Warriors, on the other hand, have gotten key contributions from their four All-Stars: Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as well as from players like Livingston, Andre Iguodala and Zaza Pachulia at times to set an NBA record with 14 straight postseason wins.
But after being so close last year and falling short, the Warriors know how difficult the next two will be.
“It’s human nature to let your guard down, human nature, 2-0, everybody in the world ‘It’s over, it’s over,'” Livingston said. “No, it’s not over. We saw what happened last year. We’ve been here. The guys that were here last year understand it’s the hardest thing to do is to try to close out a series and we’ve got two more games to go. We need to take that mentality to Cleveland.”

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