LeBron inspired, Warriors wary of overconfidence following Kyrie Irving surgery
LeBron James t akes i nspiration f rom those dismissing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship hopes after losing Kyrie Irving, while the Golden State Warriors are wary of over- confidence in the NBA Finals.
All-Star guard Irving underwent surgery Saturday to repair the left kneecap he fractured in a 108-100 loss to Golden State in Thursday’s opener of the best-of-seven series.
“With Kyrie out, people are writing us off. That’s fine,” James said as he looked ahead to game two on Sunday. “I’m motivated to get our guys ready to go tomorrow and we will be ready.”
James scored 44 points in the opener with Irving adding 23. Only one other player scored after halftime for the Cavaliers.
“Tough pill to swallow,” James said. “It sucks for him personally. It’s a huge blow for our team. Guys have to pick it up in his absence.”
James left Miami last July to return to his hometown club, which now has the chance to become the first Cleveland sports team in 51 years to win a title.
“I said it was going to be one of the most challenging seasons of my career and this adds to it,” he said. “We’re undermanned right now. But we’ve got guys in the locker room that are ready for the challenge.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, meanwhile, has a different challenge — keeping his players from buying into the notion that they can waltz to a championship.
“If we have a letdown in the finals, there is something fundamentally flawed with us each indi- vidually and as a team,” Kerr said. “There is no way that can possibly happen.”
Kerr noted how a last-second regulation shot by Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert nearly cost them the opener and that Cleveland swept East top seed Atlanta with Irving absent for two games.
“The challenge is still enormous. There’s still so much for us to cover and deal with,” Kerr said. “It’s not just what happens on the floor. It’s how does the psyche change?”
Cavaliers coach Dave Blatt noted that his team swept Eastern Conference top seeds Atlanta despite missing Irving for two games, and with big man Kevin Love sidelined.