It will be more Physical
AFTER INTENSE NBA FINALS START
OAKLAND, California–Cleveland superstar LeBron James vows an intense emotional and physical tone to the National Basketball Association Finals after a grueling opener Thursday saw stars injured and passions aroused.
Defending champion Golden State’s 124-114 overtime triumph over the Cavaliers to tipoff the best-of-seven series promises a heated and bruising game two Sunday in Oakland (Monday in Manila)
“I don’t think a message needs to be said,” James said. “We’re in the fight now. The finals have started and they got a great taste of it tonight. They know what to expect when we play again.”
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James scored a career playoff-high 51 points, the most in finals history in a losing cause and the most in any finals game since Michael Jordan struck for 53 in 1993 against Phoenix.
“It was great. I mean, it was epic and he did enough to carry this team to a victory,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “To do what he did tonight and come out robbed, it’s just not right.”
The effort, hitting 19-of-32 shots and 3-of-7 from 3-point range, came despite James getting poked in the right eye by Draymond Green in the second quarter on a drive to the basket.
“My eye has been better. It’s pretty much blurry and it got worse and worse as the game went on,” James said. “So I’ll deal with that over the next couple days.”
Warriors guard Klay Thompson suffered a bruised left leg in the first quarter after Cavs guard J.R. Smith slipped into him from behind and knocked him over.
“I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he was going for the ball,” Thompson said. “I’ve got a sore ligament. I’m happy it’s just a muscle that got strained. No damage.”
Thompson returned and scored 24 points, joining Curry’s 29 and Durant with 26 while Draymond Green added 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
“It was a crazy game,” said Golden State guard Stephen Curry. “In the finals, anything is liable to happen.”
Green sparked an incident in the dying seconds of overtime with the game decided, taunting Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson after a flagrant foul and getting the ball thrust in his face for his trouble.
“I heard him,” the Cavs’ Thompson said. “And the rest is history.”
Asked if emotions will continue to hit the boiling point, Thompson replied, “My job is to bring the toughness, energy, so that’s what I do.”
It’s the first time in American sports history that two teams have met for the title four years in a row. Familiarity is quickly breeding contempt.
“Every series, by the time you get to game three or four, you’re tired of those guys. We have history with these guys and it started in game one,” said Tristan Thompson.
“That’s what the playoffs are about — toughness, energy and grit. Only two teams left standing so whoever wants to die and fight for that trophy will get it.”
Intensity went over the top two years ago when Green struck James in the groin and was suspended for a game. Without him, the Warriors lost and went on to drop three in a row and the finals, becoming the first team to squander a 3-1 finals lead.
Nevertheless, Curry said he’s happy to have Green when a game gets chippy.
“It’s empowering all the way around,” Curry said. “Glad he’s on my team.”
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