CLEVELAND -- In tournament basketball, superstition says never talk about the next step until you’ve taken the one right in front of you.
Before a potential rematch with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers will make their third straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals when the best-of-seven series against the Boston Celtics gets underway at TD Garden Wednesday, and they are not taking the experience for granted.
“You know you’re one step away, and however you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to win four games to get back to The Finals,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “You’re one step closer to your goal, and we understand that. I understand that, and our team realizes that, so when you get to the Eastern Conference Finals or the Western Conference Finals, you understand you’re one step closer to your goal.
“You’ve still got four games. If you win four games, you’re back in The Finals, so no matter who you’re playing, you understand that.”
Courtesy of the Game 4 win over the Toronto Raptors on May 7, the Cavaliers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third straight season, a first in franchise history.
With the win, the Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to record back-to-back four-game sweeps over the first two rounds of the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The Cavaliers have won 11 straight postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at the Warriors.
But overconfidence is not and won’t become a problem as the Cavaliers finish up another break of at least eight days in-between series.
“You know you’ve got to win four games in a series,” Lue said. “After winning these last four, now that series is over. It’s onto a new series, so I don’t see how you can get overconfident playing a new team.
“We don’t know how they’re going to respond or what they’re going to do defensively or offensively, so we don’t know what to expect in Game 1. Getting overconfident, for me or for this team, is not anything we have to worry about.”
While media and fans debate whether having the same two teams meeting for the NBA’s ultimate prize is good for the game of basketball, Lue harkened the potential rivalry to the one that reenergized the league in the 1980s, when the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers met three times in a four-year span.
“Is it a problem? I don’t think so,” Lue said. “I think a lot of people wanted to see Boston and the Lakers back in the day, so I think nowadays, a lot of people want to see Golden State-Cavs. It’s not a problem.
“Right now, it’s two of the teams that have been playing some of the best basketball right now, two of the teams that have been in back-to-back Finals, so why not? Why not want to see it again? I don’t see why it would be a problem. I think last year had some of the best ratings in NBA history. Now, with them adding Durant, the way they’re playing, the way we’re playing, it can be even higher.”