OAKLAND, Calif. — Another team that got steamrolled the way the Cavaliers did in a 22-point Game 1 loss Thursday night might be fighting creeping self-doubt heading into Game 2 tonight at Oracle Arena. But the Cavaliers have the advantage of knowing they bounced back from losing the first two games to the Warriors last year, including a 33-point rout in Game 2, and they eventually overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA title.
So the defending champions spent the better part of two practice days reminding themselves it’s not over.
“Obviously, you can use the experience you had last year, as well as the year before,” Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said Saturday. “They took Game 1 the last three years, so, we know there are some things that we can correct. Before the Finals started, I said the team that settles in the quickest will definitely have Game 1. You just saw how the intensity and physicality that they were playing at, they jumped on us after halftime.”
Despite a shaky start last season, J.R. Smith famously wound up celebrating shirtless at the victory parade in Cleveland, so he said the Cavs were not shaken by their Game 1 loss. “It helps us not panic as much,” Smith said of last season’s experience. “That’s good. Guys aren’t frantic. We’re keeping a level head and understand it’s going to be a long series.”
Of the 91 points the Cavs scored, all but 24 came from Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love. The other nine players who got into the game shot a combined 7-for-31. Irving noted that players such as Deron Williams and Kyle Korver were making their first appearance in the Finals.
“We have a few guys in their first Finals, so we just have to welcome them into it and understand that this is still the same game,” Irving said. “It’s at a totally different level, but it’s still us and what we can control, we need to control.”
The Cavaliers all know they primarily need to cut down the 20 turnovers they had that fueled the Warriors’ transition offense. They also want to be more physical on defense and to play at their tempo on offense.
Asked if the key to Game 2 really is to come out with a tougher mindset, Irving agreed. “Well, we definitely have to come out with that if we have any chance,” Irving said. “But the team that’s going to win that battle is who can sustain it for the longest. So we want to be that team.”