OAKLAND, United States: LeBron James has never lost the first two games of an playoff series and the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar doesn’t plan to start against Golden State in the NBA finals.
James has nine consecutive game-two wins after his teams have lost the opener of a playoff series and the Cavaliers test that streak Sunday after losing to the defending champion Warriors 104-89 on Thursday.
“I’m not discouraged at all,” James said Friday after analyzing video of the defeat. “We had some opportunities. We played some good basketball for 36 minutes.
“We definitely missed some really easy looks, some looks we’re accustomed to making, that we’ve made all year. We were able to get where we wanted to go. We’ve just got to knock them home.”
James had no explanation for his success in bouncing back from game one defeats.
“I’ve been part of some resilient teams,” James said. “My team has always been able to recalibrate, look at the mistakes in game one and come up with a better plan in game two.”
The Warriors will look to snap James’ streak on Sunday and seize a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series before the scene shifts to Cleveland for games Wednesday and next Friday.
“Sunday is a huge game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We would like to go take care of business and get out on the road with a 2-0 lead but we’ve got to play well.”
The Warriors have beaten Cleveland six times in a row, three in last year’s NBA Finals and twice more in the regular season before Thursday’s 104-89 drubbing.
“It’s not like we have any control over them,” Golden State’s Draymond Green said. “They are used to winning. They are going to battle. They are going to compete and they are super talented. You can’t come out saying, ‘We beat them six in a row. We’re good.’ Absolutely not. As soon as you do that and let your guard down, it’s a wrap.”
In the opener, the Cavaliers contained 3-point sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for only 20 points on 8-of-27 shooting, and outrebounded Golden State 47-41. But their bench was outscored 45-10.
“To win the game the way we did with those guys struggling says a lot about this team,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green, who laughed at how he came to understand Kerr’s team motto — Strength in Numbers.
“I thought it was corny when he first said it,” Green said. “But then you get to playing and you see what he means. It all comes together and it’s like, wow, that makes a lot of sense.
It’s definitely something we try to live by. It’s the depth. It’s the camaraderie. It’s all of us as one. It’s very fitting for this team.”
Reserve Shaun Livingston led the Warriors with 20 points and vows to keep the same mental attitude no matter how well the starters play.
“We have to come out with the same mindset. Our mindset has to be to be productive when we’re out there,” Livingston said. “We have to be aggressive. We’re not coming in to just give guys rest. We are coming in to be productive and make things happen.”
Golden State won last year’s Finals opener then dropped two in a row to the Cavaliers, a fact Kerr made sure his players remember.
“It’s something we will talk about but I don’t think it will be a problem,” Kerr said. “We’re much more experienced. We have that memory in our mind. We understand you can’t let up ever.”
James played 41 minutes but rested late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. In his absence, the Warriors went on a 13-2 run for an 84-70 lead just 2:17 into the final period.
James laughed off the notion he spent too long sitting, noting Golden State’s fast-paced scoring attack.
“They went up 14 in like 14 seconds,” James said. “How early do you want me to go back in?”
Golden State’s Andre Iguodala, who guarded James much of the night, knows his job will be tougher in game two.
“Expect him to come out and be aggressive, try to set the tone,” Iguodala said. “LeBron has had awesome games, whether he’s defending well or not. He still tries to impose his will on the game and gets a lot of guys involved. You just try to make it as hard as possible for him.”