By Frank Pingue
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Golden State Warriors were left red in the face after a stunning Game Three blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers but insist their confidence has not been shaken and promise to be better when the NBA Finals resume.
The NBA's best team all season, who won the first two games of the best-of-seven series by a combined 48 points, suffered a humiliating 120-90 loss on Wednesday at the hands of a much more aggressive Cleveland Cavaliers team.
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Game Four is Friday in Cleveland, where the Warriors will try to avoid the same sluggish start they made on Wednesday when the host Cavaliers raced out to a 20-point first-quarter lead that proved too much for Golden State to overcome.
"We'll respond tomorrow. I mean, we've done it the whole year, and the best part about this team is everyone's so competitive that we're all embarrassed for Game Three. We really are," Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson said on Thursday after practice.
"So we're going to have a better showing tomorrow and I really believe that."
The usually sharp-shooting Thompson accepted much of the blame for the loss as he failed to provide his usual offensive spark for a Warriors team that arrived in Cleveland on what seemed to be a fast-track to a second consecutive NBA title.
Golden State's 110-77 Game Two blowout of Cleveland marked their seventh straight victory over the LeBron James-led team dating back to last year's NBA Finals, but the streak ended with a crash at Quicken Loans Arena.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, arguably the best shooter in league history, has been far from his best in the NBA Finals but refuses to panic or complicate things ahead of Friday's pivotal Game Four.
"It's all about our effort tomorrow, especially the starting five, how we start the game, because you assume they're going to play with the same energy as they did in Game Three," said Warriors point guard and NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry.
"For us, we have to just stop that force that they played with in Game Three and come with more effort and more focus from the jump."
When the NBA Finals shifted to Cleveland this week, it seemed that the Warriors, who won a record 73 games during the 82-game regular season and beat the Cavs in six games in last year's Finals, were just too good for the Eastern Conference champions.
But one game later, the Cavaliers have the momentum.
For the Warriors, a second consecutive NBA championship would be the only way their record-setting season ends right. And they are not about to let one ugly loss distract them from their goal even if their top players are struggling.
"It's a team game. We get out there, we compete, different guys step up and have big games, other guys may not shoot the ball as well, but we all compete and we all play our asses off. And whatever happens, happens," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
"But all this stuff about, 'Oh, my God, what are we going to do?' All we have to do is take stock. We're up 2-1. We're in pretty good shape. We haven't played that well. Let's play better."
(Editing by Larry Fine)