Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James said his emotions were “all over the place” as he tried to deal with losing the NBA Finals despite another Herculean individual effort.
He averaged 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists – the first triple double average in NBA Finals history – but the Cavs dropped the best-of-seven series 4-1 to Golden State with a 129-120 loss Monday.
“I just try to do everything to help this team win and more,” James said. “I just try to put in the work, in the film room, in my mind, my body every single day to prepare myself for whatever obstacle that this ball club entails.”
“Does it always result in us winning? No,” he added. “But like I’ve always told myself, if you put in the work and you leave it on the floor, then you can always push forward and not look backwards.”
That’s what the Cavaliers must do after falling to the Warriors in the final for the second time in three seasons, having rallied from 3-1 down last year to win the crown when James led the series in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks – another unprecedented feat.
“I left everything on the floor every game, so I have no reason to put my head down,” said James, who scored a game-high 41 points Monday. “It’s just not my time.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said there were tears in the locker room after the final defeat, including his own.
“I broke down so I couldn’t really finish my speech,” he said. “A lot of guys cried because they wanted it bad. And that’s all you can ask. If you give all your effort and all the fight and all the heart you got, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win. That’s what’s tough about sports. They gave everything they had. We fought, we competed, and we never gave in, but they beat us.”
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 26 points, was already turning the pain into passion for another run at the finals. “You feel obviously the disappointment of losing, a lot of decisions that you’ll replay over the summer,” he said.
“The next thing that I’m looking forward to is getting these couple weeks off and then get right back to it. They have an incredible team. They beat us, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be back and we’ll be ready to battle again. It’s fueling me inside right now,” he added. “I can feel it... there are a few things you can take away from the series, but the only way to go is to grow from here.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lamented a game-ending 11-0 Golden State run to win game three.
“I don’t see a big gap. I thought we played well, got better each game, but against good teams you can’t give away games,” he said. “When you have them beat, you have to beat them. You can’t go back and forth or teeter on the fence. It’s over,” he added. “Nothing you can look back on and now we just got to prepare and get ready again.”
Never a ‘failed season’
James shook his head over injuries that kept the team from hitting full stride until just before the playoffs. “It would have been great to see us at a full unit throughout the whole season so we can continue to build the camaraderie and chemistry out on the floor so you don’t have to wait until April to see what you’re capable of doing,” he said.
“We were able to hit the switch, but those games in January, November, games people think aren’t important, they’re important to me and they would have been important to our ball club. We weren’t able to get over the hump and accomplish what we ultimately wanted to do,” he added. “But no such thing as a failed season when you put in as much work as we’ve done.”
Irving looks forward to joining James for a possible fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.
“He’s freaking awesome,” Irving said of James. “That’s the type of guy that I want to be with every single time.”