CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the 2016-2017 season with plenty of expectations because of their historic run to the NBA Championship last June, and at times, it seemed as though the team struggled with the weight of lofty goals.
However, the Cavaliers battled through injuries to power forward Kevin Love and shooting guard J.R. Smith in time for the NBA Playoffs, and went 12-1 on the way to their third consecutive Eastern Conference Championship. And even though the Cavaliers fell three wins short of the ultimate goal, coach Tyronn Lue walked out of Oracle Arena in Oakland after Monday’s Game 5 loss full of pride in his team.
“As far as this season, I'm proud of our guys for being a resilient group and staying the course, even when it didn't look great,” Lue said. “During the regular season, when we hit a drought, we lost some games. I thought when we got healthy, we got our mind right, we stayed the course, and once we got to the Playoffs, we really performed.”
Cleveland Cavaliers face off against Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of 2017 NBA Finals
In fact, Lue was so proud of his team’s effort throughout the NBA Playoffs that admittedly, he broke down in the locker room while addressing the players following the Game 5 loss.
“We had a moment,” Lue said. “I broke down, so I couldn't really finish my speech. A lot of guys cried because they wanted it bad, and that's all you can ask. If you give all your effort and all the fight and all the heart you’ve got, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win, and that's what's tough about sports.
“Just losing, it's tough. My first time being in this position as a head coach and you get the guys here and you play The Finals and you're starting to play better and play well, and then, you look up and the season's over. It is tough for me because I know all the fight these guys have and how much they wanted to win, and when you come up short like this, it's just tough.”
Courtesy of a 129-120 victory over the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors earned their second championship in three years and third title since the franchise relocated to the Bay Area in 1962.
On the way to his first NBA Championship, Warriors forward Kevin Durant scored 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting, including a five-of-eight showing from three-point range, to go along with seven rebounds, five assists and one steal.
Durant averaged 35.2 points over the five-game series against the Cavaliers.
Despite Durant’s impact in The Finals, Lue is confident in the Cavaliers’ abilities to contend again in the future.
“I don't see a big gap,” Lue said. “I thought we played well, got better each game, but against good teams, you can't give away games like Game 3 at home, and then, expect to come here and win in a hostile environment.
“When you have them beaten, you have to beat them. You can't go back and forth or teeter on the fence. You have to beat them. Letting Game 3 get away from us, and then, coming back to this gym, we knew it was going to be tough, but I thought our mindset was right. I thought we gave the right amount of fight, the right amount of physicality, and they beat us.”