Basketball: Warriors to bring the thunder

Warriors guard Stephen Curry shooting during practice ahead of the NBA Finals. The two-time Most Valuable Player leads the league with 30.1 points and 2.14 steals a game.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry shooting during practice ahead of the NBA Finals. The two-time Most Valuable Player leads the league with 30.1 points and 2.14 steals a game.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Battle-hardened champions will rely on their ability to dig deep when they face the Cavs

OAKLAND (California) • Stephen Curry has called on the Golden State Warriors to build on the momentum of their comeback win over Oklahoma City Thunder as they prepare to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the National Basketball Association Finals opener today.

The Warriors begin the defence of their National Basketball Association (NBA) crown at the Oracle Arena in a dream repeat of last year's Finals, which saw them win the title against an injury-hit Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers have arrived in California firing on all cylinders, with their big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all fit and ready as they bid to avenge last year's 4-2 series defeat.

Golden State, meanwhile, arrived for the Finals after a Houdini act against the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, coming back from 1-3 down to complete a stunning 4-3 win on Monday.

Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Curry told reporters the Warriors were brimming with belief after their win over the Thunder and urged the Dubs to unleash the same sort of hunger against the Cavs today.

"We have to bring that same mentality that got us out of the hole 3-1 to Game 1 with the score 0-0," he said. "And if we can do that and play with that same hunger and that same fire as if we're playing in an elimination game, I really, really like our chances.

"But that's going to be the challenge for us to - against a different team with a different game plan - bring that same mindset and take advantage of home court in Game 1."

Curry agreed the Warriors may benefit from being battle-hardened after their pulsating series against Oklahoma City.

"We have a lot of confidence right now and we've been through a lot in the last week and we've been challenged physically and mentally," said the guard.

"There's a lot at stake the last three games, so that's put us on edge, for sure."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said on Wednesday that he believed Curry's smiling, laid-back demeanour masked a ferocious competitive spirit which had been pricked by perceived digs about his achievements.

"Steph is extremely competitive in a very humble way. He doesn't have to say anything," Kerr said.

"He does his talking through his play, basically. But he definitely is motivated by things that people say about him or things that he reads or anything like that. One of his greatest attributes is his competitive fire. A lot of people don't know that because of his demeanour, but he's an incredible competitor."

Curry has also rejected suggestions that he sees himself as the logical successor to LeBron James as the face of the NBA.

"That's not what I'm playing for, to be the face of the NBA or to be this or that or to take LeBron's throne or whatever," he said.

"You know, I'm trying to chase rings, and that's all I'm about. So that's where the conversation stops for me.

"I'm not in the business of ranking or debating who is what. At the end of the day it's about winning and the fact that we won a championship last year and were the last team standing, obviously is what was most important to me."

James, meanwhile, sought to draw a line over his perceived snub of Curry recently when asked about his MVP award.

"Steph was definitely the MVP of our league and is the MVP in our league and is a great basketball player, and what he does for this league is amazing," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GOLDEN STATE V CLEVELAND

Game 1: StarHub Ch202, 9am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2016, with the headline 'Warriors to bring the thunder'. Print Edition | Subscribe