CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers knew the Golden State Warriors would be a challenge in the 2017 NBA Finals, especially after they bolstered the lineup with the addition of small forward Kevin Durant in free agency following an historic collapse to Cleveland in The Finals last summer.
But the Warriors have proven to be even more of a test for the Cavaliers, rushing out to a 3-0 lead in The Finals, including a 118-113 come-from-behind victory in Game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Wednesday night.
“You knew they were resilient, for one,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “I watched a lot of film on them, and I knew it was going to be one of the toughest challenges I've had because of the firepower they have, because of the mindset that they were going to have.
“They're a hungry group. You can sense that. You've seen that throughout the postseason. You've seen it for the first three games of The Finals. They have so much talent, a ton of talent, and they work well together. It's not one guy on that team that's selfishly looking for himself and not for the team.
“When you can combine talent, you can combine unselfishness, and then, you can combine guys that play hard, that's going to result in some really good things. I sensed that from not only watching the film before the series started, but also, now playing in the series.”
Late in the first quarter, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue pulled James from the game to get him some rest, and in the two-minute stretch, the Warriors went on a 12-3 run and took a seven-point advantage into the second period.
James sat down for just 34 seconds over the final 36 minutes of play.
Then, the Cavaliers did not score a point over the final three-plus minutes of the game, and a late spurt from Durant gave the Warriors the comeback victory.
“Against a team like this, those type of runs you just can't afford,” James said. “Throughout the course of the regular season or throughout the course of the postseason, we just have to find better ways to, as a collective unit, having the right pieces out on the floor or the guys on the floor, they have to do their job and try to do it at a high level, no matter who is out on the floor, so something we have to figure out.”
No stranger to doing things the hard way, James sees this latest challenge as another obstacle to overcome in his career.
“I think it's just part of my calling to just go against teams in the midst of a dynasty,” James said. “This has been the best team in our league the last three years. They won a championship, and last year, it was the greatest regular-season team we played, probably one of the best postseason teams that everybody's ever seen as well, but we were just able to overcome that, and they're playing like one of the best teams once again.
“Obviously, you never know what's going to happen, but as it stands right now, they look pretty good as far as the future.”