OAKLAND — LeBron James has lost 28 NBA Finals games in his career. For an ultra-competitive person like LeBron, each loss comes with lost sleep and a sting all their own.
But Thursday’s Game 1 loss may have been the most painful of them all.
“It’s one of the toughest losses I’ve had in my career, well, because of everything that kind of went on with the game and the way we played,” LeBron admitted Saturday. “Obviously, we all know what happened in the game. So it was a tough 24 hours not only for (George Hill) and for myself but for our whole ballclub, because we put ourselves in a great position to be successful.
“But like I said, you give yourself a day — if you need to take two days, okay. But today you should feel excited about the opportunity to be better and be great and move forward.”
That was the message across the board from the Cavaliers heading into Game 2: Yes, Game 1 hurt, but they know they’ve got to bounce back because they believe they can earn the split on the road, then head home.
“We put the game behind us,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “It’s over. Now we’ve got to focus in on Game 2 tomorrow. that’s all we’re focused on right now.”
There was a sense among the Cavaliers that despite the punch-to-the-gut nature of the loss, it was a reminder that they are an elite team that can hang with — and beat — the favorite Warriors. They just need to clean some things up (such as transition defense) and hit their threes.
“I think regardless of what went down and the nature in which we lost, you just have to move on,” Kevin Love said, echoing the same sentiments. “I guess the silver lining for us would be the togetherness and just having one another’s backs going into Game 2. We know what to expect from this team. We were locked into our game plan. We never let the game get out of hand, which can happen here at Oracle when you have a 7-, 8-point deficit against them — it goes to 15, it goes to 20, 25, and so on and so forth.
“We felt like we fought hard. We continue to make big plays when we needed to. We made a two-minute game, and the last two minutes were tough for us. We made some mistakes, went into overtime and the game got away from us a little bit. We just have to have a good showing in Game 2 and come out and play our style.”
Do that, and we’ve got a real series on our hands.