OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) - The Cleveland Cavaliers are undermanned, exhausted and facing an elimination game in the NBA Finals but LeBron James still likes his team’s chances of winning the championship series.
Following Sunday’s 104-91 loss in Oakland that put the top-seeded Golden State Warriors ahead 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, a self-assured James explained why he remains confident in his team’s chances.
“I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world,” James, who led all players with 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in the loss, told reporters. “It’s that simple.”
Few could dispute James’s self-assessment after another spectacular performance, where he posted his second triple-double of the series.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome a sensational performance by league MVP Stephen Curry, who scored 17 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach and the Warriors one win away from their first title in 40 years.
“I thought he was great,” James said after the game. “But that’s not why we lost. We gave up 18 fast break points. We gave up 15 second-chance points. Steph was special, obviously, but his hitting those step back threes is not why we lost the game.”
James said he would have to play better for his team to win, but it is his supporting cast that needs to improve to keep the Warriors from hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy on the Cavaliers home floor on Tuesday.
Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova, who had a breakout performance in Game Three filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving, scored just five points in 41 minutes of play and was unable to contain Curry down the stretch.
And after a hot start shooting from beyond the arc, J.R. Smith faded later in the game, finishing with 14 points on 5 for 15 shooting.
A key question going into Game Six is whether Cleveland coach David Blatt will stick with the smaller, speedier lineup he used on Sunday, which battled well against the Warriors own small lineup until Curry’s explosive fourth quarter.
James said the inability of his team to get back in transition and coral offensive rebounds on missed Warriors free throws hurt his team, not the smaller lineup.
“We’re going home with a Game Six and we’ve got enough to win it,” James said. “We protect home, we come here. We’ll worry about Tuesday first. But if we protect home like we’re capable of doing, we force a Game Seven.”
Editing by Frank Pingue