LeBron James sounds down in the dumps

J.R. Smith

J.R. Smith

And that meant that titles Durant won with Golden State would be valueless, empty.

The Cleveland Cavaliers - and, by extension, LeBron James - knew they had to win Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night to even the series and have a realistic chance of beating the star-studded Golden State Warriors.

The first two games of the NBA Finals are the most-watched since Michael Jordan's final championship in 1998.

LeBron James has taken on the role of Atlas, not just for his team, but for a league hoping against hope the NBA Finals will redeem a boring playoff season. He said last year's Finals would have little bearing on his outlook, even from an encouragement standpoint.

"You guys asked me what was the difference, and I told you", James said. And through two games, that pitch has borne out. "We had bodies on bodies, and we have to do that against those guys because if we let them run free, then they are even more risky".

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Kane Williamson's classical 100 from 97 balls had earlier steered New Zealand to 291 all out in 45 overs after winning the toss. An obvious choice, maybe, but Smith is undoubtedly Australia's premier player and will hope to lead from the front once more.

Durant's scoring has taken pressure off Stephen Curry and allowed the Warriors to withstand Cleveland runs so well that they haven't trailed after the first quarter in either game.

After starting the series with a game-high 38 points, as well as nine rebounds and eight assists, Durant displayed his defense in a 132-113 victory over the Cavs - which opened up a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series - at Oracle Arena on Monday (AEDT).

Steve Kerr smiled and cracked jokes. And in the first two games, Irving did not have anywhere near the type of two-way impact that James, Durant and Curry had. "When we're going off and coming off into isolation, they're bringing a few extra bodies to crowd the lane". "So we got to just keep going, keep our foot on the gas and keep getting better every day".

That's what the presence of Curry and Durant will do - even when someone as brilliant as James is playing against them. "Now we got to go home and regroup". Really. A year ago, the Warriors assembled the best National Basketball Association team I've seen in my lifetime. "So I think that's a luxury that we have with KD here, and when I went out with foul trouble, obviously he - to say pick up the slack is kind of a ridiculous term, because he's a great player, an MVP, one of the best players in the world".

Steve Kerr's return from back a lingering back injury served as an inspiration for the Golden State Warriors.

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Durant and the Warriors come to Cleveland for Game 3 of the Finals on Wednesday. And Kevin Love added 27 points in 30 minutes. They want to be a good defensive team.

The key one came late in the third quarter after Cleveland cut the deficit to four points. Durant and Curry then knocked down 3-pointers 23 seconds apart to balloon the lead to 121-99 and render most of the final 6:18 as garbage time.

But nobody believes James has no say about Cleveland's strategy.

His game face contrasts starkly with that of LeBron James, who looks like he's just been charged with digging out trapped coal miners and their oxygen is running out. Meanwhile, Curry put up 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists on his way to a triple-double. Irving went 1-for-5 in the quarter for two points with one assist. "No, it's not over. It was 2-0 a year ago and we lost". "And we forced them to 20 turnovers, and they still beat us pretty good, so we got to be much better, too". And we take pride in it, we care about it.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors - 6/7/17 NBA Pick, Odds, and Prediction
No player in league history has posted across-the-board numbers that were equal to, much less better than, those in a Finals game. Kyrie Irving scored 24 points in the opener and Love had a big day in Game 2, but starters Tristan Thompson and J.R.

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