Stress test: High-wire Cavaliers still alive in NBA Finals
CLEVELAND — Go ahead, back them into a corner. Call them names. Write them off.
The Cavaliers don’t care.
For the fourth time in two years, Cleveland fought off elimination in the NBA Finals by winning just when it appeared their season was over.
On Friday night, the Cavs turned anger over some comments made by Golden State’s motor-mouthed forward Draymond Green into energy and their best performance this season. They broke scoring records in a stunning 137-116 victory that shoved this “Three-match” between new-school rivals to the West Coast for Game 5 on Monday.
And while most teams would prefer not to live on the edge, the Cavaliers seem to thrive there. The only team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, LeBron James and his buddies are basketball’s high-wire, high-risk act with no net to break their fall.
It’s dangerous, and not for the faint of heart.
“I don’t like it,” James said, drawing laughter after surpassing Magic Johnson in the record book with his ninth career Finals triple-double. “It causes too much stress, man. I’m stressed out. Keep doing this every year. But listen, at the end of the day we just got some resilient guys.”
The Cavaliers are still alive and have a chance to do what no other team has ever done in the NBA playoffs — rally from a 3-0 deficit.
It’s been done on big stages in other sports, perhaps most famously by the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who strung together four wins over the New York Yankees to win the AL pennant on the way to their first World Series title since 1918.
But in the 126 instances where NBA teams have fallen behind 3-0, none have recovered to win the series. Zero. That’s 0-126.
Maybe these chaotic Cavs are just the team to do it.
Stack up the odds, Cleveland conquers them.
“We’re a resilient group, resilient team,” said Kevin Love, who made 6 of 8 3-pointers and scored 23 points. “We have been in this situation before. Every year’s different, every playoff series, every game, but we just are a team that never count ourselves out.
“We feel like any game that we walk on the floor we have a great game plan and we expect to win. But we just continue to have that fire, continue to be resilient, but right now it’s just becoming one game at a time
“One quarter, each possession being huge for us, because that can make or break a team.”
But beyond their resiliency, the Cavs have displayed a mental toughness through all kinds of adversity. Over the past three years since James returned from Miami, the Cavs have handled injuries, constant scrutiny, drama — much of it self-inflicted— and even a midseason coaching change.