The Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are both 8-0 in the postseason and seemingly on a collision course to meet in the NBA Finals for a record third straight time.
Some people think that’s bad for basketball, but Cavs coach Tyronn Lue isn’t among them.
“Is it a problem?” Lue asked rhetorically following practice Wednesday. “I don’t think so. I think a lot of people wanted to see Boston and the Lakers back in the day. Nowadays a lot of people want to see Golden State-Cavs. It’s not a problem.
“Right now, it’s two of the teams that have been playing some of the best basketball, two of the teams that have been in back-to-back Finals, so why not? Why not want to see it again? I don’t see why it would be a problem.
“Last year had some of the best ratings in NBA history. Now, with them adding (Kevin) Durant and the way they’re playing, the way we’re playing, (ratings) could be even higher.”
Cleveland center Tristan Thompson agreed, but like Lue was quick to note the Cavs will take nothing for granted in the Eastern Conference finals, which will begin Monday or Wednesday against Boston or Washington (if the Celtics advance, Cleveland will open on the road; if the Wizards move on, Game 1 will be at Quicken Loans Arena).
“I don’t think it’s boring or nothing like that,” Thompson said of the Cavs and Warriors sweeping in the first two rounds. “Both teams are locked in and understand there’s a bigger goal.”
“We’re not even looking at the Warriors,” he added. “We’re looking at Boston-Washington. Before that it was Toronto. The most important team is the team in front of us.”
That in mind, Cleveland players returned to the practice floor after having Monday and Tuesday off.
The Cavs went over a few things regarding the Celtics and Wizards, but spent most of their time doing shooting and conditioning drills in preparation for what could be as long as a 10-day layoff after the conference semifinals.
“The key for this week is just to get rest and kind of recharge our batteries, so when we do play next week guys are fresh, flying and active,” Thompson said.
“We know the importance of the playoffs. We know every game counts. Guys punch the clock.”
The Cavs also punched the Toronto Raptors in the conference semifinals, dominating them in the first three games before completing the sweep Sunday at Air Canada Centre.
It was a much-improved performance from a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, but Cavs stars LeBron James and Kevin Love said after Game 4 that Cleveland could still play better.
“We definitely can get better,” he said. “We know that. That’s why we’re taking these days to continue to fine-tune, continue to work on things we need to get better at. They’re absolutely right.”
Lue, though, is pleased with his team, which appears to be peaking at exactly the right time.
“We’re just playing Cleveland Cavalier basketball,” he said. “We’re defending well. Offensively, we’re playing well, we’re pushing the pace, we’re sharing the basketball. We’re just playing Cleveland basketball.
“You’re one step away. However you’ve got to do it, you know you have to win four games to get back to the Finals. You’re one step closer to your goal. We understand that. I understand that. Our team realizes that.”
For that very reason, Lue is not worried about the Cavs being overconfident heading into a series against Boston or Washington.
“Now it’s a new series,” he said. “I don’t see how you can get overconfident playing a new team. ... Getting overconfident, for me or this team, I don’t think it’s anything we need to worry about.”
Make no mistake, though, the Cavs are a confident bunch and would love to play the Warriors — who beat them in six games in 2015 and blew a 3-1 lead last year — for the third straight year.
It would be the first time in NBA history the same teams met in the Finals for three consecutive years, and it could be an epic series given the numbers both squads are putting up.
Through eight playoff games, Cleveland is averaging 114.5 points on .490 shooting from the field and .434 on 3-pointers, while Golden State is at 115.2, .484 and .379.
Defensively, the Cavs are allowing 104.9 points on .459 shooting from the field and .323 from behind the arc, while the Warriors are at 98.8, .407 and .325.
That is why Lue is watching Golden State’s playoff games, but he’s also watching the Boston-Washington and San Antonio-Houston series.
“I’m always watching,” Lue said. “I’m watching everybody. ... My mind is always going. It’s always running. You’re always trying to get an advantage.”
Shake it up
Thompson credited guard Iman Shumpert for most of the intricate handshakes the Cavs go through during pregame introductions.
“Shump is very creative,” he said. “You guys can tell. You know the camera’s always rolling. You don’t want to be the one that messes up.”
Lue drew huge chuckles when asked about the choreographed routines, saying, “I wish we could remember some of our defensive schemes that well.”
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