OAKLAND (Reuters) - Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue has said their 124-114 defeat by the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the NBA Finals on Thursday was painful but provided valuable insights into how to dethrone the defending champions.
The Cavs led with less than a minute left in regulation and but for an overturned foul call on Warriors’ Kevin Durant and a miscue by Cavs guard J.R. Smith at the end of the fourth quarter, the game could easily have had a different result.
The underdog Cavs used their length to out-rebound the Warriors and were able to slow down the tempo of the game, allowing LeBron James to score 51 points by isolating hapless Warriors defenders and setting the table for a near upset.
“It was a tough game for us. We played well enough to win but we didn’t,” Lue told reporters on a call on Friday.
“Our guys’ confidence is not shaken. We see what we need to do and how we need to perform to win. So we have the blueprint, now we just need to execute at a higher level.”
Cavs guard George Hill said they feel as confident as ever and are eager to avenge the loss when the teams meet for Game Two in Oakland on Sunday.
“Everyone in this locker room felt we gave this one away and we missed the opportunity,” he told reporters.
“We have a game on Sunday to make up for it and do the best we can to get back on the right track.”
To even the series the Cavs will need James to carry over his spectacular play from Thursday, which included eight rebounds and eight assists along with his monster scoring performance.
“He did everything he could to will our team to win,” Lue said. “He showed his team on the biggest stage how you have to play to beat this team and he did a great job of that.”
Asked if James could play any better than he did on Thursday, Lue laughed. “I hope so,” he said.
“I know it’s asking a lot but we need him to lead by example, being aggressive and attacking the basket.”
“He did that last night and he’s got to keep it up.”
Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ken Ferris