Cavs, Warriors will get physical as NBA Finals tension boils
OAKLAND, USA – Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue wants to see a tougher tone from the defending champions in their do-or-die showdown Monday, June 12 (Tuesday in Manila) with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The Warriors lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 but missed a chance to clinch with a 137-116 loss Friday at Cleveland, the more intense and physical Cavaliers ending Golden State's unbeaten playoff run at 15 games.
"First 3 games we were being too nice, helping guys up off the floor, smiling, I didn't like that," Lue said Sunday. "Talking trash, being physical, whatever you got to do to get that edge, you got to do it.
"They're coming right after us so we have to go after them. I don't see anything funny or anything to smile about. Hitting, being physical, we have to do that. Talking trash or knocking guys on the floor, whatever you got to do, you got to do it."
Expect the battle to be joined as the Warriors, on the brink of an NBA title but coming off their first loss in two months, try to clinch before home supporters.
"You don't want to keep letting the series prolong, so you have to come out with a killer instinct and a punch-face mentality," Warriors forward Draymond Green said.
"I expect us to come out guns blazing. You get punched in the face you want to respond. We know what it takes to win a championship. We know what we have to do."
The Cavaliers became the first team in NBA Finals history to rally from 3-1 down last year in dethroning the Warriors.
Now Cleveland is trying to become the first playoff team to overcome a 3-0 deficit, but that requires a road win Monday.
"We have to bring our best game every game against this team. They create so many different problems out on the floor, so much firepower, that we always have to play great in order to win," Cavaliers superstar LeBron James said.
"If you don't do something well, they will make you pay for it, so we have to be 20 times better in this building and we understand that... If we don't protect the ball, we don't limit their 3-point shooting, then we can get blown out."
LeBron, K.D. talking trash
James, who said he isn't interested in playing in the new Olympic basketball 3-on-3 event, said he and Warriors star forward Durant will continue to exchange trash talk.
"We've been on each other a lot throughout these first 4 games," James said. "It's probably going to stay that way and we'll see what happens after that."
What could be a coronation might also give the Warriors a coronary issue. They lost game 5 at home last year on the way to dropping the series. They added Durant, seeking his first NBA title after leaving Oklahoma City, but a loss would bring a game 6 Thursday in Cleveland and perhaps a winner-take-all Sunday showdown in Oakland.
"They're going to view this as a game 7 situation," Cleveland's Richard Jefferson said. "For us, every game's a game 7. But for them, this particularly is from the standpoint of they don't want to go back to Cleveland and they understand that anything can happen in game 7."
Green said the chance to sweep was a distraction more so than the now-ended chance to become the first champion to roll unbeaten through the playoffs.
"It's natural for you to look up and see the finish line right there, and you tend to focus on that instead of the task at hand," Green said. "We understand that.
"You just think it's going to happen. Then all of a sudden you get smacked in the face and it's like: Whoa. You remember what can be, what can happen."
Not since 1996 had a team up 3-0 failed to sweep in the final. But not since 1951 has a team down 3-0 forced a seventh game in the finals.
"We just want to play a good game. We can't worry about what happens after the game," Durant said. "If we start thinking too far down the line, we take our focus off of the task at hand.
"We know the situation we're in. We know anything can happen in this league and we know that champions just don't lay down and die. They're going to come out and play with a sense of urgency." – Jim Slater, Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com