CLEVELAND — LeBron James appeared to be in good spirits, but he said he wasn’t. He didn’t like his mood or the way he was feeling about staring at another 0-2 hole to the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
“When you’re down like this, in a deficit like this versus a team like this, there’s no good feeling,” James said following practice Tuesday. “So I don’t feel good about it.”
But James made sure he clarified what he meant. Before answering the next unrelated question, James went back and tried to prevent the narrative from turning into he doesn’t believe the Cavaliers can come back.
“Give me one second, sorry,” James said. “I don’t feel good how I feel right now, not how I feel about the rest of the series. I know how clips can get broken up and somebody can clip that and be like, ‘Oh, LeBron said he doesn’t feel good.’ I personally don’t feel good today of the deficit that we have. Not about tomorrow. I feel great about our opportunity.”
Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven series are in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers have won their last eight playoff games. Wednesday is a must-win since no NBA team has ever come back from 3-0 down to win a series.
The Cavaliers lost Game 3 last year, won Game 4, before Golden State closed it out at home in Game 5. Everyone knows how crucial Game 3 is, especially the Warriors, who don’t want to give James and the Cavaliers any life.
“We know how Cleveland plays here, with a lot of energy and force,” Steph Curry said. “No matter what’s gone on in the series, when you change venues, you’ve got to reassert your dominance and try to find that right momentum to start.
“We have a great opportunity tomorrow to do that. I want to be a part of leading that charge and playing an amazing game tomorrow and really taking control of the series.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said his team has to play more physically and that he would give seldom-used swingman Rodney Hood more of an opportunity. Acquired from Utah at the trade deadline, Hood has played just seven minutes in the Cavs’ last seven playoff games.
The Warriors could be getting back 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, who has missed the past six games with a bruised left knee. Steve Kerr said the Iguodala played 1-on-1 Monday and would go through practice Tuesday. Kerr said Iguodala would be upgraded to questionable for Game 3.
But James was still answering questions about the Game 1 loss that would have changed the mood for both teams had it gone Cleveland’s way.
A video of James sitting on the bench stewing after J.R. Smith essentially dribbled out the clock after grabbing an offensive rebound in a tie game went viral.
In that three-minute stretch between the fourth quarter and overtime, James looked furious, didn’t say anything to Smith and reacted with disgust when Lue told him they had a timeout left.
“Damn cameras,” James said with a big grin before agreeing to recall his thoughts in that “heartbreaking loss.”
James said he was just going over what transpired in those closing seconds: George Hill missing a free throw, Smith “dribbling the ball out,” and Draymond Green committing an uncalled lane violation. James also wondered if he should have called timeout right away or if the Cavaliers even had one left.
“I was kind of a little bit still in shock of what was going on at that point in time,” James said. “So I asked our coaching staff if we had a timeout. And they told me, yes. I guess you all probably seen the reaction from that point on.”
After that video aired, James was criticized for not trying to pick up Smith and be a better leader in a game in which he scored 51 points. James smiled and shrugged it off.
“I don’t care at all,” he said. “We’re in the NBA Finals. How much more picking up of teammates do you want me to do? I’m in the NBA Finals, looking for a championship.”