Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates after end of the overtime period of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. The Cavaliers won 95-93 in overtime. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
On Sunday night (Monday Manila time), the hometown Oakland crowd at the Oracle Arena was treated to a performance of the national anthem by Carlos Santana to open Game 2 of the NBA Finals. The crowd then proceeded with deafening cheers of "WARRIORS! WARRIORS!" and "MVP! MVP! MVP!" when reigning MVP Stephan Curry was introduced. The crowd was also privy to celebrity sightings such as elusive comedian Dave Chapelle, Black Eyed Peas member Will.I.Am, and former Golden State Warrior and NBA star Baron Davis who were in the crowd.
However, that is where the treats ended as the Cleveland Cavaliers outlasted the Golden State Warriors in a nail-biter of an overtime, 95-93. This is the first time in NBA Finals history when both Games 1 and 2 ended in overtime.
Prior to Game 2, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and his Cavaliers counterpart David Blatt met with the media to offer their perspectives going into Sunday.
Kerr surmised that it was business as usual preparation-wise when having to deal with a now Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers team going forward, especially in the impending Game 2.
"We have to do what we do. There are injuries all the time. This is a team that has dealt with this throughout the playoffs. I'm talking about Cleveland dealing with Kevin Love's absence, dealing with Kyrie's absence the last series, and they're still a great team. (Matthew) Dellvedova has come in and done a hell of a job. They're still the same issues that we're having to deal with, so we've got to be on top of our game regardless of who is out there, and that's what we're focused on."
However, after Game 2, Kerr credited the Cavaliers' defense as a reason for the Warriors' loss.
"Yeah, their defense was great. I think they deserve a lot of credit for the way they played. They got into the passing lanes. They took our rhythm away. Then we've got to do a better job ourselves of trying to create that pace and rhythm."
Kerr continued by commenting on Stephen Curry's lackluster performance for most of the game.
"It happens. It happens to everybody, whether you're the MVP or a role player. Sometimes the shots don't go in. Sometimes things don't go your way. I've seen it with everybody. I've seen it with Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan. It doesn't matter who you are. Nobody is immune from a tough night. So sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way, it doesn't go in, it's fine. You keep playing. "
"Steph will bounce back. He's a great player. We'll try to see if we can get him into a better groove, but he'll be fine. I mean, the guy's been phenomenal in the playoffs. Doesn't mean he's going to light it up every single night. So you chalk it up to a bad night and see what you can do to try to free him up and maybe get him some open looks."
Although the Warriors trailed most of the game during which Curry was barely able to connect from the 3-point line, going 2-15, Curry did score 7 points in the final 2:45 of regulation to help tie the score at 87-87, which included a 3 foot driving finger roll lay-up that punctuated the final shot of the game and forced an overtime.
Because of his numbers, Curry himself admitted that his shooting felt a little off in Game 2, though he is positive he can shake it off and look ahead to Game 3.
"No, it didn't feel right, but there is no time to really worry about that. Shots I normally make I knew as soon as they left my hand that they were off. That doesn't usually happen. I don't expect to shoot like this. I'm not going to let one game kind of alter my confidence. You've got to keep shooting and try to figure it out. I know as a team we're not going to let one team alter our belief that we're going to win the series."
"I've got to play better, find better shots, and be more in a rhythm throughout the course of the game for us to really assert ourselves as a team. So just got to play better, move past this game, and keep the confidence. But, I'll look at the film and try to figure out exactly what adjustments (the Cavaliers) made, specifically on ball screens, and I'll be ready for Game 3. We've got to move on and be ready to play a good team that's ready to go home."
Blatt, for his part, felt Irving's absence for Game 2 was nothing new to his "banged up" team because they know how to respond roster-wise.
"Our group is a strong group, a strong group mentally. And they have played under these conditions. We're hoping to get guys into good spots, get them comfortable looks and knock them down. But it's not just one guy that's going to come in and give you 20 plus points, I believe. I think it's got to be a collective thing and everybody's got to step up and give a little bit more."
And step up they did as the Cavaliers grabbed a hard-fought win, taking home court advantage from the Warriors and evening the series 1-1, as they head to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4.
After Game 2, Blatt credited his team's tenacity to fight through the media talk that the series was done after losing Irving to injury.
"I thought we were stronger and fresher at the end of the game. Maybe we did a little bit better job of distributing, not so much distributing the minutes, but spreading them out and giving guys a chance to rest here and there. We're asking a lot of our guys to be able to play significant minutes and give us what we need them to give us, and they're doing it. Today the ball just bounced our way at the right time, and that's why we won and the other day we lost."
As the series heads to Cleveland for Game 3, the question now becomes whether the Cavaliers can continue on this path despite being severely hampered with player injuries. More importantly, whether LeBron can continue to carry his team through another three games, as he ended Game 2 with a triple-double, 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Because of this workload, LeBron already has a plan in place to prepare for Game 3.
"Did you see how I walked in here? I'm feeling it. I'm feeling it right now for sure. (My trainer and I) already have started on my rehab. Already started on my session. I will rehab on the plane. We've got a five hour flight back home, and we've got all around the clock treatment tomorrow and get ready for Game 3. I'll be ready."
In comparison, only two other Cavaliers scored in the double digits: Timofey Mozgov with 17 points and J.R. Smith with 13. Mozgov also ended his night with a double-double by adding 14 rebounds while Tristan Thompson helped with 14. However, relying on the Cavaliers' bench scoring proved more helpful in Game 2.
"Well, our bench was big for us tonight. We needed everything that we got from them. They came in and did an excellent job of contributing offensively and defensively. They played pretty good."
As for motivation moving forward in this series, LeBron thinks the Cavaliers have it in spades.
"Well, I mean, I don't need any extra motivation. I think our guys love it. Our guys love the fact that we've been counted out and come into the series being an underdog. They're pretty much saying that especially after Kyrie got hurt and the series was over. I think our guys are using that as motivation. I use a little bit of it, but I have a lot of motivation already to just be a part of greatness and be a part of this and be a part of this atmosphere. My motivation is to make sure my guys are ready and prepared every night we step on the floor."
Game 3 of the NBA Finals continues in Cleveland on Tuesday, June 9 (Wednesday Manila time).