OAKLAND (California) • Cleveland's LeBron James, known for bouncing back stronger from play-off defeats, promises such heroics today (Singapore time) in Game 2 of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals after what he calls one of the toughest defeats of his career.
Defending champions Golden State opened the best-of-seven championship series with a 124-114 overtime home victory after the Cavaliers led in the final seconds.
Referees reversed a charging foul on Warriors forward Kevin Durant on video review into a blocking foul on James in the final minute of regulation time and Cleveland's J.R. Smith squandered a last-shot chance in the fourth quarter apparently unaware the score was level.
Smith has since admitted to "cluelessness" in his blunder and promised to be focused in Game 2.
"It's one of the toughest losses I've had in my career," James said after Game 1. "Because of everything that kind of went on with the game and the way we played.
"It was a tough 24 hours... for our whole ball club because we put ourselves in a great position to be successful."
James scored 51 points, grabbed eight rebounds and passed off eight assists, his scoring total the most in an NBA Finals game since 1993 and the most ever in a losing cause.
That means he has to score 60 now, right? Well, got to score 60 then I guess.
TYRONN LUE, Cleveland Cavaliers coach, on needing an even bigger performance from LeBron James after the superstar's 51-point show in their NBA Finals Game 1 loss against the Golden State Warriors.
But, far from demoralised, James said he is re-energised by the chance to level the series in the fourth consecutive Finals between the two clubs.
"You should feel excited about the opportunity to be better and be great and move forward," the star forward said. "I woke up feeling excited about the opportunity that presents itself.
"I expect us to come and play with the same grit we had in Game 1. And we made a lot of mistakes in Game 1. I expect us to be better."
Improvements after defeats have become a James trademark in the play-offs. Four times after producing fewer than 27 points in a post-season loss this year, James has scored 42 or more in the following contest.
But where do you go from 51 points? "That means he has to score 60 now, right?" Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said of James. "Well, got to score 60 then I guess.
"After a loss, it's tough. But I think he always comes out and leads by example and sets the tone early. I think, offensively, we need him to do that, especially on this floor with their crowd and the way they play."
Stephen Curry, who led the Warriors with 29 points in the opener, says his team will be more aggressive in keeping James from comfortable situations.
"We've got to be a little bit more aggressive," Curry said. "It just means doing things a little bit faster, a little bit more physical, and trying to make not just him but everybody else more uncomfortable out there to start the game."
A victory would put the Warriors halfway to their third crown in four seasons, the other denied when Cleveland rallied from 3-1 down in 2016 in the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history.
"We're expecting another great effort from them," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who added that forward Andre Iguodala remains doubtful with a left leg injury.
"We've got to put more pressure on him (James). We can't just sit back and let him pick us apart."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
GOLDEN STATE V CLEVELAND
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