LeBron James feeling stress of facing mighty Warriors again

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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CLEVELAND – Kevin Durant hit a dagger pull-up 3-pointer from the left wing in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals in Cleveland. Kevin Durant hit a dagger pull-up 3-pointer from the left wing in Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals in Cleveland.

“Nah, that wasn’t the same shot,” LeBron James said. “The one he made tonight was about four or five feet behind the one he made last year.”

LeBron has shown off his memory throughout these playoffs, but he wasn’t flaunting here. He wanted everyone else to remember just how good these Warriors are. Don’t treat what they do as routine, because it is not.

Since adding Durant, Golden State has put itself in discussion as the greatest team of all-time. Stephen Curry can shoot 3-for-16, including 1-for-10 on 3-pointers, on a Klay Thompson off night, and the Warriors can still win because of Durant. Golden State’s talent – don’t forget about the other star, Draymond Green – is perhaps unrivaled.

LeBron was asked to expound on the difference between the 2015-2016 Warriors, whom the Cavs faced in the Finals both years, and the 2017-2018 Warriors with Durant

“You guys asked me this last year, what was the difference between the Warriors the previous year and this year, and what was my answer?” LeBron said.

The question wasn’t rhetorical. LeBron stared at the questioner until someone else in the room yelled out “Kevin Durant.”

“Alright,” LeBron said. “There it is.

“Kevin Durant was my answer. He’s one of the best players that I’ve ever played against that this league has ever seen. His ability to handle the ball, shoot the ball, make plays at his length, his size, his speed. So, there it is.”

Remember, the Warriors won the title in 2015 and a record 73 regular-season games and three Finals games in 2016. They were already elite without Durant.

Now?

“It adds a level of stress,” LeBron said. “Because you know that you can never relax. You know if you relax, they make you pay, and making you pay could cost you a game.”

The Cavaliers could realistically be up 2-1 in these Finals. They blew a chance to win Game 1 on J.R. Smith‘s late boneheaded play, and they led Game 3 with three minutes left.

Instead the Warriors are up 3-0 with a chance to sweep Friday. Give them an inch, and they take a mile.

Dating back to Kyrie Irving‘s trade request, the Cavs have given many feet. That leads to questions about whether LeBron will use his player option to leave Cleveland this summer.

But even if the Cavaliers led the Finals 2-1, Golden State would still be favored in the series. The heavy speculation about LeBron’s future might be delayed in that scenario, but it’d still be coming. It’s as inevitable as these Warriors.

So, what will LeBron do about them? At this point, it’s a question for the offseason, primarily – though not completely yet.

“Friday morning when I wake up,” LeBron said, “I’ll be locked in and ready for Game 4.”