Latest posts by Don McCormack (see all)
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LeBron James knows all too well — perhaps better than anyone, in fact — about the challenge he and his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates will be facing with the Golden State Warriors invading for their annual Martin Luther King Day clash, this one at Quicken Loans Arena.
And James, who has led Cleveland to three consecutive NBA Finals matchups against Golden State, said the way the Cavaliers have been playing of late — dropping eight of their last 11 — will not be a factor in this one Monday night. Just as Cleveland winning 18 of 19 leading into the first matchup with the Warriors didn’t matter.
Golden State is listed as a 4.5-point favorite in Las Vegas for Round II this season.
“You could win a hundred straight games and face the Warriors and there are still challenges,” James said.
The teams played on Christmas Day at Oracle Arena, Golden State prevailing, 99-92.
Since then, the Cavaliers have stumbled through a 2-6 stretch, including suffering their two worst losses of the season (at Minnesota and at Toronto) on a just-completed five-game road trip, going 1-4 on the journey.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have gone 8-2 since spending Christmas with the Cavaliers and now point guard Steph Curry has returned to the lineup. Neither Curry (ankle), nor Isaiah Thomas (hip) of the Cavaliers played in the first matchup this season.
“I just thought offensively, we didn’t play well,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said of the Christmas Day clash in Oakland. “It kinda started on that trip offensively, just haven’t been making shots, haven’t been playing with a lot of pace.
“We’ve just got to get back to doing that.”
Lue has a point, even though the Cavaliers haven’t scored many. In their last seven defeats, Cleveland has scored 100 points only once.
One thing, as always, Cleveland has who no other team possesses is James, the NBA’s ultimate weapon.
Thomas, though, who has played four games as a Cavalier, appreciates his new teammate, but said he and his teammates cannot expect James to do it all himself.
“He’s one of the best leaders I’ve been around and you learn from that, you learn from a great player like him,” Thomas said. “Collectively, as a group, it can’t be all on him. We have to all be a star in our role. Whatever role we have on this team, have to be a star in it, have to put your egos aside.”
Thomas believes he and his teammates must prepare themselves mentally for the challenge of taking on Golden State.
“They always say we go through this rough stretch, I don’t believe in that,” he said. “That’s all mental. (We) got to figure it out and got to just put your pride aside and do whatever it takes to win that particular game.
“We have a tough one on Monday, but we will be ready.”