By Frank Pingue
CLEVELAND (Reuters) – LeBron James called Game Three of the NBA finals “do-or-die” for his Cleveland Cavaliers and after winning that one in stunning fashion, is sticking with the same mantra.
Thanks to their 120-90 win on Wednesday the Cavaliers now trail the Golden State Warriors 2-1 in the best-of-seven series rather than a 3-0 deficit that no team in NBA history has ever overcome.
But even with momentum on their side going into Friday’s pivotal Game Four in Cleveland, James said his team will continue playing as if their season is on the line.
“It’s the same. It’s the same mindset,” James, who scored a game high 32 points in Wednesday’s victory, told reporters on Thursday after practice. “We can’t afford to go down 3-1 and go into their building and give them confidence going back. So it’s a do-or-die game for us still.”
Over 200 teams have faced a 3-1 deficit in a seven-game NBA series and only 10 have managed to beat the odds and win the series in seven games, a feat most recently accomplished by the defending champion Warriors in the Western Conference final.
While the Cavaliers have stolen some of the momentum from the Warriors, they are not about to get complacent even though they are a perfect 8-0 at home this postseason.
“They’re not a laydown team. They’re going to compete. We know they’re going to come out and compete. Even though we won Game Three, we know Game Four will be even harder,” said Cavs guard Iman Shumpert.
“There’s not a doubt in our mind that they’re going to come out and compete. We just have to continue to do the things we do well. We have an advantage in this building. We know that. We love the fact that we have that, and we’re looking to lean on it.”
While the Warriors will likely make some adjustments to help free up space for struggling shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Cavaliers will bring their same attitude to Friday’s game, which means a physical style of play.
“The same way we approached Game Three: Just being physical, and being aggressive. I think in the first two games with Golden State, they were definitely that,” said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.
“They were more physical and they were more aggressive than we were. And last night we turned the tables on them.”
James had a key role in disrupting the usually potent Golden State offense as he was assigned the task of guarding Draymond Green, the player who had made the biggest difference during the first two games of the Finals, each won by the Warriors.
Green said on Thursday he liked his chances if the Cavs stick with the same matchup.
For his part, James said his approach will not change: “Just try to go out there and play the game that I love to play, trust the work I’ve put into it and let the chips fall where they may, and I did the same thing last night.”
(Editing by Larry Fine)