INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — As the sports world salivates while awaiting a seemingly inevitable NBA Finals, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is keeping his undefeated team focused on its next unknown opponent.
And keeping an eye on the Warriors.
“I’m always watching,” Lue said. “I’m watching everybody.”
But maybe that Northern California team a little more.
With both Cleveland and Golden State at 8-0 in these playoffs and on a collision course toward a potential third straight Finals, there has been heated debate about whether Cavaliers-Warriors 3.0 is good for basketball.
It’s the first time two teams have swept through the first two rounds, and with the way the Cavaliers and Warriors are playing, it doesn’t seem to matter who they’ll face once the conference finals get going.
Lue isn’t overlooking Boston or Washington, one of which will play Cleveland next, but he isn’t buying into this notion that a third helping of Cavaliers vs. Warriors is somehow a hoops overindulgence.
“I think a lot of people wanted to see Boston and the Lakers back in the day,” he said. “I think nowadays, a lot of people want to see Golden State-Cavs. And it’s not a problem. Right now, it’s two of the teams playing some of the best basketball. So, two of the teams that have been in back-to-back Finals, so, why not?
“Why not want to see it again?”
Draymond Green has no objection.
“I know as a basketball fan that’s what I’d want to see,” Golden State’s loquacious forward said. “You hear all the talk about it. You know it’s there, but we’ve got four more games to win before we can reach an NBA Finals. … We’ve got to stay locked in and focused on the now. If that happens, it happens. I know we’ve got to take care of our business and I’m sure they think the same way.”
Following two days off after sweeping Toronto in the second round, the Cavaliers got back in the gym on Wednesday to work on some defensive schemes and push through conditioning drills while DJ Steph Floss, who spins records during games at Quicken Loans Arena, filled the facility with thumping music.
It’s the same routine the Cavs have used while going 16-0 in the first two rounds the past two years, so Lue isn’t changing much.
“We’re just sticking to it and I think with the DJ, it just gives them a different look and it gives guys motivation to work out to the music and just something different,” he said. “I don’t know, it’s worked the last couple years for us, so we’re just going to continue to do it.”
Winning has worked as well, and after staggering to the finish line in the regular season, LeBron James and the Cavaliers have taken their game to another level.
James, who will be appearing in his ninth Eastern Conference finals in 14 years next week, has never been better. He’s averaging 34.4 points — up 8.1 over last year — with 9.0 rebounds and 7.1 assists in eight games. The extra rest between series has kept him fresh, and the 32-year-old seems extra motivated following a regular season in which Russell Westbrook and James Harden dominated the MVP conversation because of the triple-double exploits.
James has found another gear in the postseason and Lue believes the Cavaliers are capable of shifting even higher — if that’s possible.
“We definitely can get better,” he said. “We know that.”
The Warriors have been more impressive in rolling over Portland and Utah. In its first postseason with Kevin Durant on board, Golden State is winning by an average of 16.5 points per game — nearly 7 points higher than Cleveland and on pace to be the highest point differential in league history.
From the moment last summer when Durant left Oklahoma City and joined Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Co., it’s been assumed they would cross paths with the Cavaliers this June.
And, as Lue said, what’s so bad about that?
“I think last year (the Finals) had some of the best ratings, I think, in NBA history,” he said. “I think now with them adding Durant and the way they’re playing, the way we’re playing, it can be even higher.”
More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.
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