Game 2: As it happened
OAKLAND: If anyone needs LeBron James, he will be in his trailer. Actually, he will be at his locker.
On Sunday night, in game two of the NBA finals, James finished with typical numbers: 29 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists. And Cleveland still lost 132-113 to Golden State.
Afterwards, he refused to attend the main media conference – the podium, as they call it here – and instead spoke to a handful of reporters in the locker-room long after delirious Warriors fans had streamed out of Oracle Arena.
When one reporter suggested he was a “podium guy”, he fired back: “Yeah, there’s a reason ??? It has nothing to do with wins and losses, though.”
He’d already been snappy with the media.
Reporter: “LeBron, do you just feel this is a case where you just have to defend home court at this point?”
James: “Well, aren’t you a smart guy?”
Reporter: “I think so.”
James: “Well, if we don’t defend home court, then what happens?”
Reporter: “Then you guys are looking at getting swept.”
James: “Alright, so that answers your question.”
Reporter: “Did you get any or will you need any IV?”
James: “No, I’m good. I just need some food and some wine and I’ll be all right.” “They’re a different team. You guys asked what was the difference and I told you…”
LeBron James reacts to Game 2 loss. #NBAFinalspic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/1ECBoYz0Vm??? NBA TV (@NBATV) June 5, 2017 Photo: Ezra Shaw
In the media room that James didn’t want to go near, Durant’s teammate, Draymond Green, sat on the left of the podium, microphone in one hand and most of the room eating out of the other.
Durant sat on the right with head bowed and black cap pulled over most of his face. He was almost embarrassed to be there.
When Durant made that play, Green was on the court and he flexed his biceps for the fans in celebration.
“When you make a play like that,” Green said. “He blocked the shot, gets the rebound, start talking … see, that’s the big part for me, you know, he blocks a shot and starts talking, so that’s what got me hyped. That was a man play. I don’t really know if I could put this power in these arms, though.”
Durant shook his head: “Oh, my gosh.”
The other defining play came from Curry in the third quarter with the Warriors out to an 81-73 lead.
A year ago, when the Warriors blew a 3-1 leads in the finals series, James put Curry firmly back in his box when it mattered.
Here, the pair came up against each other. Curry went left then right, then left again, finally finding a way to drive past James on his way to the rim and then making the shot.
Up until then, this match had been a streetfight. There and then, it turned into a mugging.
“It’s basketball, man, I mean, every possession you have the opportunity to impact the game, doesn’t matter who really is across from you,” Curry said, downplaying the moment.
Green wasn’t having it. He gushed like he was one of the fans.
“I see two guys … Steph has been around for five years, K [Durant] who I’ve been a teammate now with for a year, but played against for five years, more locked in than I’ve ever seen either one of them in my life. Whether it was playing against him, other than when he put 52 up on my head ???”
“Fifty-four,” interjected Durant, referring to his 54 for Oklahoma City against the Warriors in 2014.
“My fault,” Green grinned. “Short-changed him. Other than that, when you got somebody doing you like that, it’s just like a burning fire in their eye and you know you don’t stand a chance. But that’s like the look that I see in him throughout this finals. And both of them, to me, it seemed like it’s personal for both of them. And you are talking two of the greatest players that we got in this world locked in the way they are, that’s why we’re up 2-0.”
And that’s the point: the three best players in the world are playing in this finals series. Two of them are playing for Golden State.
Durant’s move from the Thunder at the end of last season was slammed by many critics who claimed he took the easy option to find a championship.
Outspoken ESPN commentator Stephen A Smith was the harshest, branding Durant “weak”. Before the match, Durant’s mother, Wanda, had something to say about it.
“I thought [what Smith said] was quite harsh,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Who are you, Stephen A, to come at my boy like that?’.”
So, Golden State continue their unbeaten run in this year’s play-offs and head to Cleveland for game three on Thursday morning (AEST) coming off a 19-point win. Then again, they won game two last year by 33 ???
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who announced two hours before tip-off he would be making an appearance on court despite a debilitating back problem that has sidelined him for six weeks, could only joke about how easy it would all be.
“Oh, we have got a plan in Cleveland,” he said, tongue-in-cheek. “We’re going to shut him [James] down. We have got this great plan that for sure is going to just completely stop him. I don’t know what you do with him. He’s one of the great players of all time, we all know that, I think he’s playing better than he’s ever played, and you just do your best.”
Hopefully, James has left his locker by then.
The author is covering the NBA finals as a guest of ESPN. Every game of the NBA finals is live on ESPN. Game three will be shown on Thursday at 11am AEST.