In a tied NBA Finals, James ready for whatever Cavs need
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) LeBron James casually swished a jumper from the corner, an otherwise ordinary shot with a higher degree of difficulty given the backpack hanging over his shoulders.
In the NBA Finals, James might have to carry something much heavier than a backpack.
He might have to put the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back.
''Well, I'm in a spot where I have to be very productive, and that's just the spot I've always been in,'' James said Saturday.
He's certainly been in this very spot in the finals, Game 5 of a tied series, the game that has historically foretold who would win the title. So it's all about the next game, with no reason to get hung up on what happened in the last one - no matter how bad things appeared.
''I think when you get to a championship-level type game with it being 2-2, I don't think anyone has the momentum,'' James said. ''Obviously, everyone would say them because they're coming back home, and then after the game they had the other night, but the momentum starts once the game starts.''
Golden State contained James and won big for the first time in Game 4. The Cavaliers don't have an obvious lineup adjustment like the Warriors made, so Cleveland's best chance - maybe only chance - could be for James to score Sunday the way he did in the first three games.
James appeared rested and relaxed before practicing at the Warriors' training center, surely helped by the extra day between games when the series moved west. He scored only 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting in Game 4 after averaging 41 through the first three.
Coach David Blatt believes the break will benefit not only James but his whole team, which after a quick start Thursday was a step behind the rest of the night trying to keep up with the deeper, quicker Warriors in a 103-82 loss.
''We've had a couple of days here to recover. I believe that's going to be helpful,'' Blatt said. ''This is a tough series for both teams, a lot of things happening. It's the best-of-three to win the NBA championship, the world championship. So I like the situation we're in. I like the challenge that's in front of us, and I can't wait to play tomorrow.''
Neither can the Warriors, who weren't particularly impressive while splitting a pair of overtime contests in Games 1 and 2. But now that they have regained home-court advantage, they will win the NBA title as long as they don't lose a second game in an arena where they lost only twice all season.
They did lose twice in the playoffs at home, against Memphis and Cleveland.
''I think if you look at the entire playoffs, the first two games at home have been a struggle,'' said coach Steve Kerr. ''Part of that is just trying to adapt to your opponent and get a feel for what they're doing. Easing into the series. Not easing in, but trying to get a grasp on what you're wanting to accomplishment. So I think we should be better tomorrow because we have a feel for our opponent, and I'm looking for a better game at home.''
He wouldn't say if he would stick with the small lineup the Warriors unveiled in Game 4, with swingman Andre Iguodala starting in place of center Andrew Bogut. But given Golden State's success in speeding up the tempo, there seems little reason to switch back.
James acknowledged after the game that the Cavaliers don't have many lineups they can go to, but Blatt isn't so sure a change is necessary given the way the first three games went.
''If you look at the one game, it makes you think, `OK, we've got to change this, that and the other thing,'' he said. ''If you look at the four games, in three out of four of those games we were pretty good doing the things that we did. So I think you'll see a combination of both of those possibilities.''
Teams that won Game 5 when the finals are tied have gone on to win 20 of 28 times, according to STATS, though not last time it happened. Miami fell behind San Antonio 3-2 in 2013, then James led the Heat to two wins.
So he knows not to overreact to anything this time of year.
''We're going to play our game,'' he said. ''We've gotten to this point by playing the way we play, and we're not going to change.''
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