Cavaliers need repeat of Irving-James double act

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (left) wants his team to limit the shooting opportunities of his Golden State counterpart and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry. The Warriors face the Cavs in Cleveland knowing they are one win away from clinching
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (left) wants his team to limit the shooting opportunities of his Golden State counterpart and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry. The Warriors face the Cavs in Cleveland knowing they are one win away from clinching their second straight NBA Championship. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CLEVELAND • It could take another historic effort from Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to keep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals, while Golden State face the possible loss of centre Andrew Bogut.

The defending champions Warriors lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 entering Game 6 today at Cleveland, with the Cavaliers needing a victory to force a seventh game on Sunday in California.

James and Irving each scored 41 points to spark Cleveland past Golden State 112-97 on Monday to avoid elimination, becoming the first team-mates in NBA Finals history to reach more than 40 points in the same game.

"We'll be very well prepared for Game 6," Irving said. "That's the only thing that's on our mind right now. We're not satisfied. We understand the magnitude of what Game 6 means for us and we know that it will be an incredible level they are going to play at, and we have to play at an even better level."

Golden State were yesterday awaiting the final results of an MRI scan on Bogut, who suffered a left-knee injury early in the third quarter on Monday, to know his status for the remainder of the series.

The Australian blocked six shots in Game 2, the most in a Finals game since Pau Gasol in 2010, and averages 3.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in the Finals.

His absence would partly be offset by the return of Draymond Green from a one-game suspension for accumulated flagrant fouls, but still requires Golden State to dig deeper into the bench for help.

"Our bigs are just going to have to step up. Been doing it all year," said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. "We're still in a great position. We'll come back stronger."

No team have won the NBA Finals after trailing 3-1 and only two of 33 such teams, the 1951 New York Knicks and 1966 Los Angeles Lakers, even managed to force a Game 7.

"We still have our backs against the wall and have to come out swinging. We have to be ready to play again," Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith said. "Mentally, nothing can change. We have to continue to play with desperation to exhaustion. We have to try to force Game 7. We have to have the same effort."

James, who also had game highs of 16 rebounds and seven assists, is trying to bring Cleveland its first sports title since 1964 and avoid a third loss in a row in his sixth consecutive NBA Finals trip.

"It's do or die for us," he said. "At this point, it's whatever it takes."

The Warriors have made a record 276 three-pointers in this year's play-offs, paced by the NBA's Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, the NBA scoring leader who hit a record 402 three-pointers this season.

"We like our chances going forward and continuing to just try to be us, the best we can, and get one more win," Curry said. "We'll be ready, come out with confidence and get the job done."

Irving says containing Curry is vital to the Cavaliers' hopes. "We've got to be better in Game 6 in terms of the looks that he was getting," Irving said.

"We understand he's going to hit some tough shots, but we have to limit some of those opportunities. We have to be a little better."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Cavaliers need repeat of Irving-James double act'. Print Edition | Subscribe