OAKLAND, Calif. — LeBron James has been brilliant in the first two games of the NBA Finals, which still have been lopsided losses for his Cleveland Cavaliers.
While James has delivered — he had a triple-double Sunday night in Game 2 — it hasn’t been nearly enough against the superstar-laden Golden State Warriors.
Kevin Love provided a needed scoring boost in Game 2 after Kyrie Irving did the same in Game 1 but almost no one else came through, sending the Cavs to a 132-113 loss and an 0-2 series deficit.
"I thought for the most part with the game plan that we had we tried to execute it as close as possible," James said. "Much more physical today than we were in Game 1. And we forced them to 20 turnovers and they still beat us pretty good. So we got to be much better too."
They have to do it quickly or Cavs-Warriors III could end up being a much shorter series than the first two editions of the Finals trilogy that the teams split. Game 3 is Wednesday in Cleveland where the Cavs will look to regain the magic that helped them overcome deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 in last year’s Finals.
"I’m not a past guy too much," James said. "I’m more of a present guy so we just got to figure out how we can be better in Game 3."
James had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists to tie Magic Johnson’s record with his eighth career Finals triple-double but expended so much energy that he had a hard time getting to the rim in the second half when he often seemed to settle for jumpers.
He was even seen huffing and puffing as he went to the bench at one point in the third quarter. But after the game, he said he felt fine and just needed some food and wine two feel better.
More help from his teammates would go a long way too.
Love gave the Cavs a needed second offensive threat with 27 points but against a team filled with a pair of former MVPs in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, two other 2017 All-Stars in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and several role players who have made key contributions, it wasn’t been nearly enough.
Cleveland’s third star, point guard Kyrie Irving, struggled offensively with a 8-for-23 shooting night as he had to expend so much energy at the other end defending Curry and Thompson.
"We have to figure out a way to get him going early. He’s been such a big piece of our success the last three years, obviously," James said. "We can do better job of getting him going early. He missed some chippies — ones he’s so accustomed to making."
Fellow starters Tristan Thompson (eight points, four rebounds) and J.R. Smith (scoreless) were invisible again and no one on the bench stepped up leaving King James helpless for much of the night.
Thompson’s lack of production has been particularly glaring considering how big a role he played the past two seasons, averaging a double-double in the Finals each of those years. He hadn’t reached double figures in points or rebounds this year in the first two games combined.
"They’re going a good job of sending two or three guys to box me out," Thompson said. "I’ve just got to keep battling."
James and Love combined to make 24 of 41 shots, while the rest of the team shot just 36 per cent with only Irving even reaching double-figures. In the 113-91 loss in Game 1, Thompson and Smith combined to make one basket and the Cavs got 25 per cent shooting outside of James and Irving.
"I’m just seeing a lot of bodies," Irving said. "They’re obviously trying to make a few other guys make some plays. When we’re going off and coming off into isolation, they’re bringing a few extra bodies to crowd the lane."
The other Cleveland guys have not been getting it done.
Midseason acquisitions Kyle Korver and Deron Williams have failed to make their anticipated impact, with Williams being held scoreless through two games while Korver followed up a zero-point opener with eight points but has been a liability defensively.