‘IT’S NOT OVER’

Cava­liers ig­nore last sea­son’s come­back after an­other 0-2 hole

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY JOSH DUBOW

OAK­LAND, CALIF. | 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 night 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 to keep 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 faster­paced 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.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cleve­land Cava­liers for­ward LeBron James’ 29 points, 11 re­bounds and 14 as­sists on Sun­day may have tied Magic John­son’s record of eight ca­reer NBA Fi­nals triple­dou­bles, but he hasn’t got­ten nearly enough of­fen­sive help from his team­mates. Starters Tris­tan Thomp­son and J.R. Smith have been nearly in­vis­i­ble.

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