INDEPENDENCE: By the time Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors celebrated their championship in the visiting locker room at Quicken Loans Arena last spring, Kyrie Irving was on crutches and Kevin Love’s left shoulder was in a sling.
Now both of the Cavs’ stars are healthy, along with the rest of the roster. As they enter an NBA Finals rematch against the defending champs, the Cavs at least feel like they have a fighting chance.
“We’re better built to start the Finals than we were last year. Doesn’t matter who it’s against,” LeBron James said Tuesday. “I mean, that’s not a headline. It’s obvious.”
James heaped praise on the Warriors on Tuesday while insisting he didn’t care if the Cavs faced them or the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Warriors rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Thunder in Game 7 Monday night and return to the Finals after winning 73 games during the regular season.
As a result, the Cavs practiced Tuesday morning at the Cleveland Clinic Courts before boarding a cross-country flight for San Francisco. They would’ve had home-court advantage against the Thunder, but none of that matters anymore.
Now they must contest with the backcourt shooting tandem of Curry and Klay Thompson, who both broke the record for 3-pointers made in a series. Curry ended the Western Conference finals with 32 3-pointers, and Thompson made 30. Both players surpassed the previous record of 28 shared by Ray Allen and Dennis Scott.
“Klay and Steph are probably the two greatest shooters that we’ve probably ever seen,” James said. “Some of those shots there’s nothing you can do about it. Better offense beats great defense any day.”
James warned the Cavs won’t try to match Thompson and Curry in a 3-point shootout, but these two teams have made more 3s than anyone else in this postseason — and it isn’t really close. The Warriors have made 212 3-pointers in 17 playoff games. The Cavs have made 202 in 14. No one else made more than 150 3-pointers this postseason.
It should result in this series having a far different rhythm than last year, when James was forced to dominate the ball and the Cavs grinded out two wins with a slow pace and smothering defense.
“We have a different team than we had last year,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “Organization-wise, it’s the same two teams. But playing-wise and players wise, we’re a different team. Kevin and Kyrie are both healthy, the addition of Channing Frye, we’re a completely different team than we were last year.”
And now it’s the Warriors battling injury problems. They’ve lost five games during this postseason run after losing nine all season, primarily because of ankle and knee injuries to Curry. The Warriors looked vulnerable in falling behind 3-1 to the Thunder, now it’s a matter of whether the Cavs can duplicate that and finish them off to win the city’s first championship in 52 years.
“Everyone in the world knows this is what the game wanted to see,” Irving said. “No. 1 and No. 1 in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, respectively. This is what it’s about, right here, top level basketball, a lot of great players on one court at one time and two great teams just competing.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ.