LeBron, Cavs come home with backs against the wall, again

Cleveland fell to 7-13 in NBA Finals games against Warriors with Game 2 loss

Daryl Ruiter
June 04, 2018 - 12:46 am
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts on the bench during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game two of the 2018 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – With a bloodshot left eye, LeBron James took a seat with just over 4 minutes remaining and the Cavaliers trailing by 18.

Not even he could save the Cavs from another loss to the Warriors in an NBA Finals game.

It was his first rest of the night for James and it only came because coach Tyronn Lue raised the white flag and surrendered Game 2, which the Cavs lost 122-103.

James and the Cavs have been down 0-2 before and come back multiple times to win playoff series, including the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston this year, but doing it again against this Warriors team borders on the impossible.

"The odds have been stacked up against me since I was an adolescent," James told reporters in Oakland after the game. "So I put our team in position to try to win a championship, to compete for a championship. You know, it's my job to make sure that we're as focused, laser focused as possible, do my job, and continue to instill confidence into my teammates until the last horn sounds.

"That's my job. That's my responsibility. That's my obligation, and I need to continue to do that, which I will."

James played 44 minutes and finished a rebound shy of a triple double – 29 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds while shooting 10 of 20 from the field.

Meanwhile, the non-LeBrons shot a combined 27 of 70 or 38.5 percent Sunday night.

With that kind of help – or lack of – there’s not much more James can do to beat the Warriors.

James is down 0-2 in the series despite averaging 40 points, 10.5 assists and 8.5 rebounds in the series. Over the last 7 NBA Finals games against Golden State he’s averaging 35.4 points, 11 rebounds and 10.1 assists but the Cavs have won just once.

"It sucks to lose. It sucks when you go out there and you give it everything that you have and you prep and your mind is in it and your body is in it and you come out on the losing end," James said. "But nothing would ever take the love of the game away from me. I think the love of the competition is something I live for and something I wake up every day and train my body for and train my mind for.

"It sucks to lose, that's for sure, but it definitely won't stop me from preparing to be better the next day."

James is now 2 losses from losing for a third time in 4 years to the Warriors in the Finals, and twice since Kevin Durant jumped on their bandwagon.

As the losses mount, James must be thinking of anything and everything that he can do to take the ‘Super Team’ down.

The cold hard truth is that the Cavs don’t have the firepower.

They’ve proven in the first 2 games they can hang around, but when Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson combine for 79 points while the 12 other Cavs combined for 74 points, it’s pretty much a hopeless endeavor.

"They're a dangerous ballclub no matter what," James said. "It starts with those four guys, obviously, the four All-Stars. Everyone else just does their job, and they don't miss a beat when they put someone in or they take someone out. You know, it's not something that's surprising."

The Warriors are shooting a blistering 54 percent – 93 of 172, despite hitting just 28 of 72 shots from 3 – through 2 games.

Sunday night they all but were given a free lane to the rim where they made 25 of 35 attempts in the paint. Golden State is shooting 53 of 71 in the paint this series while the Cavs have been held to 52 of 95 inside.

"When you're trying to take away Klay, Steph and Durant, other guys are going to be open," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "So, you've got to make those guys beat you, but they can't get easy baskets and dunks and things like that."

Kevin Love, the only other All-Star on the roster, is 16 of 38 with 43 points and 23 rebounds in the series, but that’s the extent of the consistent help James is receiving.

George Hill has scored a total of 22 points in the first 2 games but is 7 of 18 from the field.

"I’m sure everybody in this locker room is doing the best they can," Hill said when asked about James having to carry the load with little help from his supporting cast. "So we have to take it upon ourselves, look in the mirror and figure out more ways we can get involved defensively, offensively and get ready for Game 3."

JR Smith and Kyle Korver have provided next to nothing on the offensive end of the floor.

Smith, whose brain cramp in the final 4.5 seconds of regulation of Game 1 because he was clueless that the game was tied when he pulled down a critical rebound of Hill’s missed free throw, is an inglorious 5 of 19, including 3 for 10 from 3, through 2 games.

He was candid in assessing his play in Game 2.

"Terrible," Smith said. "I’ve got to shoot the ball better. I’ve got to defend better and be more vocal on defense."

No wonder Warriors fans tauned him with chants of "MVP!"

"I’m always a person who the fans like to talk to or heckle," Smith said. "I like it. I’d rather them do that than not acknowledge me at all. I appreciate it."

Korver is 1 of 6, including 1-4 from 3. He’s totaled 4 points in the series.

The good news is that both Korver and Smith tend to shoot better at home in the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena. The bad news, the Cavs have a maximum of 3 home games in the series which means they need to show up in a game at Oakland, assuming the series even returns to the Bay.

"It could be really tough, especially coming back here and playing in their arena," Love said. "So we have to make sure that we really bring it in Game 3, because, I mean, that's really the game right there. This is a team that you don't want to be down 0- 3 against. We know that."