Like his left eye, LeBron James’ team is bloodied and trying to maintain its focus.
Down 2-0 to the Golden State Warriors heading into Game 3 of the best-of-seven NBA Finals on Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena, James is fully aware of the situation facing him and the Cavaliers.
“I’ll be in uniform and I’ll continue to try to make plays and help our team be successful and try to get one up on the board (in the win column),” James said Sunday at Oracle Arena after a 122-103 loss in Game 2.
“The eye has looked a lot better. My daughter (Zhuri) don’t like the way I look right now. She didn’t like the FaceTime that we had earlier. She was a little weirded out about it, but I’ll be fine. Everything’s good.”
Only four times in 33 prior occasions has a team come back from 2-0 down to win The Finals, but Cleveland was one of them, having rallied from that deficit — and from 3-1 down — to beat the Warriors in 2016.
The Cavs also beat Detroit in seven games in the 2007 Eastern Conference finals after trailing 2-0, and Boston after facing the same hole in the conference finals this year.
On another positive note, Cleveland is 8-1 at home in the 2018 playoffs, but James cautioned not to view playing at The Q as the elixir for all that has ailed the Cavs.
“We want to continue to be uncomfortable,” the four-time league MVP said. “Just because we’re going home doesn’t mean we can relax. This is the last team in the world you want to relax against. ... They’ve proven they can win on someone else’s floor and do it in any fashion, in any way.
“I will continue to stay uncomfortable, and I hope our guys continue to stay uncomfortable, no matter with us going back home.”
James, whose eye was bloodied when Golden State’s Draymond Green poked it in Game 1, is averaging 41.0 points on .558 shooting overall, .455 on 3-pointers (5-for-11) and .850 at the line (17-for-20) in the series. The 6-foot-8, 250-pounder also is averaging 8.5 rebounds, 10.5 assists and 1.5 steals in 45.5 minutes a night.
James has posted at least 25 points, five boards and five assists in 12 straight Finals games, the longest streak in league history, and is averaging 33.6 points, 11.8 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks in 20 career Finals games against the Warriors.
Yet the Cavs trail 2-0 for several reasons, including the fact that no one besides Kevin Love (21.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg) and George Hill (11.0 ppg) is averaging anywhere close to double figures in scoring for Cleveland. J.R. Smith, Jeff Green, Kyle Korver and Jordan Clarkson are a combined 14-for-54 from the field (.259) over the first two games, including 5-for-25 on 3-pointers.
Add the fact Golden State went 15-for-36 on 3-pointers in Game 2 and hit an incredible .696 from inside the arc (32-for-46) — plus the possibility the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala could play in Game 3 — and James may have to do even more.
“I don’t really get caught up in that,” he said. “I mean, the odds have been against me since, I don’t know, I was 5 or 6 years old. We’re talking about basketball here, and I tell you guys all the time, the odds have been stacked up against me since I was an adolescent.
“I put our team in position to try to win a championship, to compete for a championship. It’s my job to make sure we’re as focused, laser focused, as possible, do my job and continue to instill confidence into my teammates until the last horn sounds.”
James will have to do all that with the Warriors paying even more attention to him. After watching the three-time champion score 51 points on 19-for-32 shooting in Game 1, Golden State picked up James even farther from the hoop in Game 2, when he went 10-for-20 from the floor while scoring 29 points.
“I thought we at least made him somewhat uncomfortable at times,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I mean, you’ve just got to do your best. You’ve got to pressure him. You’ve got to know he’s going to end up with 30 points and a triple-double and all that stuff, because he’s that good. But we just made things a little more difficult for him (in Game 2).”
In addition to Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston and a hobbling Klay Thompson on occasion, former Defensive Player of the Year Green guarded James more in Game 2 than he did in Game 1.
“He’s everywhere,” Golden State’s Stephen Curry said of Green. “He’s a Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. He loves those challenges, loves being in the fight every possession. He just finds ways, not only if it’s a one-on-one matchup, to get a stop and plug holes on the defense all over the court.”
James has committed five turnovers in each of the first two games, but a large reason for that is he’s had to do so much at both ends of the court.
His teammates are confident he will come up big yet again in Game 3, yet also realize they have to provide more help.
“I don’t think he ever gets tired,” Hill said. “He’s a machine. I’m sure everybody in this locker room is doing the best they can, (but) we have to take it upon ourselves, look in the mirror, and figure out more ways we can get involved defensively, offensively.”
It’s possible that even the Cavs’ very best basketball won’t be enough to win the series, but James isn’t thinking about that. Nor is he letting it detract from the thrill of playing in his eighth straight Finals and ninth overall.
“It sucks to lose,” he said. “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.
“But nothing would ever take the love of the game 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.
“I mean, it sucks to lose, that’s for sure, but it definitely won’t stop me from preparing to be better the next day.”
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