CLEVELAND — It’s not like this is unfamiliar territory for the Cavaliers. They were down 0-2 against the Celtics in their most recent series, the Eastern Conference finals, and rallied to win. And it’s not like no one ever rallied from 0-2 down in the NBA Finals.
Four teams — count ‘em, four — have rallied from 0-2 Finals deficits to win the championship trophy.
Of course, 29 have not. But let’s not dampen the Cavs’ enthusiasm just yet by harping on that.
So including Cleveland in 2016 against the 73-victory Warriors, four teams have overcome 0-2 deficits in the Finals. Hey, the Cavs got them right where they want them heading into Game 3 on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Or maybe not.
“At the end of the day we have a Game 3 to play,” said LeBron James, who fell a rebound shy of a triple-double — which didn’t matter as the Warriors unleashed Stephen Curry and his record-setting nine 3s Sunday for a 122-103 victory in Oakland.
“We’ve got an opportunity to go home and we played some really good basketball on our home floor,” said James, who despite protestations — “I only got tired once” — seemed to tire against the never-ending, multi-pronged Warriors assault. “But that shouldn’t give us any comfort. We should still be uncomfortable with the series as we were in Game 1 and as we were [in Game 2].”
Figure the Warriors will do their part to keep the Cavs’ comfort below sea level.
The Warriors attacked James defensively and let Curry lose for 33 points. Kevin Durant scored 26 and Klay Thompson, gimpy ankle and all, scored 20. By the end of the night, folks also talked about JaVale McGee and Shaun Livingston combining to shoot 11-of-11 or Draymond Green’s all around-game or David West’s clutch fourth-quarter 3 which Green called “probably the biggest 3 of the game.”
On the Cavs side afterwards, it was more, “We can do it” stuff. Firstly, they are home, where they’ve lost only once in the postseason, against Indiana. Venue helps, but guarantees nothing.
“Home-court advantage can be a real thing,” said Kevin Love, whose 22 points and 10 rebounds were the Cavs’ chief means of Game 2 support for James’ 29-point, 13-assist, 9-rebound effort. “You look at how good the Warriors are at Oracle, it’s the same for us at home.
“We feel like we feed off of our crowd. We really get up to play at home. We know that come Wednesday we’re going to have to be better,” Love said, citing blown coverages, defensive “mishaps” and occasional “stagnant” offense. “So we just have to be better and just going home and being in front of our crowd for Game 3 of The Finals will be huge for us.”
When in doubt, count on the crowd.
The Warriors know what awaits. Cleveland will be a snake pit, with fans as welcoming as junkyard guard dogs.
“We’re extremely focused. [Cleveland] has been down 2-0 in the last series and came back to win it. It’s nothing to feel happy about being up 2-0,” Thompson said.
“It’s going to be a tough task,” Green said. “Look at [Game 2]. J.R. [Smith] shot 2-for-9. Some of the shots he missed, he’s going to make those at home. You can go down the list and say that about everyone. … They’ve got a great crowd and they really feed off of it.”
The Warriors know what to expect. They’ve seen it before, although they really can’t claim to know what the Cavs are feeling. The last — and only — time in their current four-year run that they trailed by two games in any series was when the Thunder had them, 3-1, in the 2016 Western finals. They knew desperation in this year’s West finals, trailing Houston, 3-2. But they won. So instead of desperation, they may fight over-confidence.
“Because we’ve been here several times, I don’t think I’ll need to say much,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The guys in the locker room, they already know how hard it’s going to be in Cleveland.”
Yeah, don’t forget, four other teams have rallied from 0-2.
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