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Cavaliers look to get tough against wary Warriors

By Jim Slater | AFP News – 7 June 2016

Tristan Thompson (C) of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes up for a shot against Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals, at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California, on June ...
Tristan Thompson (C) of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes up for a shot against Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals, at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California, on June …

While the Golden State Warriors fight to avoid complacency after two lopsided wins to start the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers hope playing at home will help them find toughness they have so far lacked.

The defending champion Warriors would reach the brink of a repeat crown with a victory Wednesday in the best-of-seven series.

“We’re feeling confident but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” Warriors star guard Stephen Curry said. “It’s a trap to think we’ve figured things out and that we have the perfect formula to beat Cleveland and they have no chance in the series.”

Only three teams have overcome 2-0 deficits to win the finals — the 1969 Boston Celtics, 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and 2006 Miami Heat — and no team trailing 3-0 has ever rallied to win an NBA playoff series.

“The guys are not discouraged. More (angry) than anything,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We’ve got to be tougher. That’s the main thing. Got to play more physical and live with the results.”

The Warriors beat Cleveland 110-77 in game two, the fewest points allowed by the Warriors in a playoff game since 1975. They have beaten the Cavaliers seven consecutive times — three in last year’s finals, two this season and twice more in the finals.

“I don’t think there’s a hurdle for them at all,” Golden State’s Draymond Green said. “We don’t go in thinking, ‘We’ve beat these guys seven times. We’ve got them.’ That’s not our mindset at all. Once that becomes you’re mindset you will lose. Our mindset is we took care of home court. Now let’s get one on the road.

“At this point, everything you get is really hard and it’s about to get even harder. They will probably play with a little more energy. They will be playing with a sense of desperation.”

Golden State won the first two games by a combined 48 points, the most lopsided start in 70 NBA Finals.

“We understand the situation we’re in. We know we’ve got to play a lot better in order to get this series turned around,” Cavaliers star LeBron James said.

“We’re still here. We have a chance to turn this series around. We have to figure out how we can be better. We’ve got to bear down.”

– Turnovers deadly for Cavs –

The Cavaliers have to avoid giving the ball away. In two games, they have committed a combined 35 turnovers leading to 51 Golden State points. James has 11 total turnovers.

“Can’t turn the ball over against a great team and expect to win,” James said. “I had a lot of uncharacteristic unforced turnovers. It resulted in them getting some easy baskets.

“We can’t have as many mental lapses. These guys put you in so many mental positions where you have to figure it out and they make you pay for it when you don’t.”

Cleveland’s defenders have had success at times, but lapses in long stretches have led to Warrior runs the Cavs have never been able to match.

“We have to play with some fight and energy,” Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson said. “We have to do whatever it takes to win.”

It’s also a character builder for Golden State, a chance to put a struggling rival on the brink of elimination.

“How we show up in Cleveland will be a big test for us,” Curry said. “They have a great home atmosphere and the way the first two games have gone, you would expect Cleveland to come out with a lot of energy.”

Added Warriors center Andrew Bogut of Australia: “We still have a lot of work to do in this series. We don’t want to coast into game three on the road.”

– Confident, not comfy –

Golden State’s Steve Kerr could become only the second coach in NBA history to win titles in his first two campaigns, matching the feat of John Kundla of the then-Minneapolis Lakers in 1949 and 1950.

But Kerr, who won three NBA crowns with the Chicago Bulls and two with San Antonio as a player, knows James can carry the Cavaliers on his back and has vowed to bring a title to long-suffering Cleveland fans who have lacked a major sports champion since 1964.

“There’s a long way to go so we’re not celebrating,” Kerr said. “We’re confident we can beat anybody, but we’re definitely not comfortable playing against LeBron. He’s one of the greatest players in the history of the game.”

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