CLEVELAND (Ohio) • So focused are the Golden State Warriors on not repeating the mistakes that cost them last year's National Basketball Association (NBA) championship that they have not even discussed their shot at becoming the first team to go undefeated throughout the play-offs.
The Warriors are in command of their NBA Finals clash with the Cleveland Cavaliers after winning the first two games of the best-of-seven series and can become the first team to go 16-0 in the play-offs.
"We want 15-0. That's what we want. We literally have never once mentioned 16-0," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters on Tuesday ahead of Game Three today.
"To me it's a miracle that it's even a possibility. It's so hard to do. But we are here, we're more focused on what happened last year when we were up 2-0 and we came here and the series shifted. That's the important lesson, not any historical benchmarks or anything like that."
Golden State held an identical series lead last year when the championship series shifted to Cleveland but split the two games there and then went on to become the first team to lose an NBA Finals after leading 3-1.
But that Warriors team, who posted a record 73 wins in the regular season, were not as dangerous as this squad due to the addition of four-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant.
With Durant, the Warriors found another gear against the Cavaliers, winning the opening two games by 22 points and 19 points respectively.
What Cavs must do
SLOW THE PACE
Mike Fratello, a former Cavaliers coach, said he would try to slow Golden State down by having the Cavaliers be more judicious with their possessions. "Pass the ball five or six times and make the Warriors defend for longer stretches," he said, pointing to how the Warriors outscore the Cavaliers at an up-tempo pace.
LeBron James, however, insists that Cleveland would resist changing their style of play on offence because they "don't play slowdown basketball". But neither do the Warriors, and that is the issue.
CLAMP DOWN EARLY
It would help if the Cavaliers avoid giving up a ton of points in the first quarter. In Game One, the Warriors scored 35 points and in Game Two, they rang up 40. Golden State have made it clear that they want to play fast and score early, and Cleveland let it happen.
What the Cavaliers must do is to send a message at the start that the Warriors could not score at will. Otherwise, they would be allowing Golden State to have even more confidence.
SPREAD THE WORKLOAD
Through the first two games, James is averaging 28.5 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, while shooting 55.3 per cent from the field. Kevin Love averages 21 points and 14 rebounds. The duo are not the Cavaliers' problem.
It is their other team-mates who have come up short. Kyrie Irving, is shooting 40 per cent, J.R. Smith has scored three points in two games and Deron Williams has missed all nine of his shots. Forget about the Warriors. This is not a winning formula for the Cavaliers against a lot of teams.
But Golden State refuse to get ahead of themselves after having lost the third game in each of the last two NBA Finals, both in Cleveland, and know they will have to snap that streak to even give them a shot at going 16-0 in the post-season.
"We have a huge hurdle to get over," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said of their visit to the Quicken Loans Arena. "To give ourselves a chance at even coming close to thinking about that (record), we need to really, really just lock in and give every effort to seize control of this series."
The Cavaliers see it as must-win game as well. No team in NBA play-off history has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
"We have to take care of home court," Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said.
"It's going to be very telling in the series, a huge game for both teams, and we feel like we (either) play great here or we go home."
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue confirmed that he would not be changing his starting line-up in Game Three despite suggestions he would start Iman Shumpert over J.R. Smith, who scored just three points in two games.
"I'm not making a change," he said. "We all have to play better and we will.
"We've got to play with pace... We can't take bad shots. We can't turn the basketball over."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Game 3, Cleveland v Golden State: Singtel TV Ch110, 9am