May 25, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) warms-up before the start of game five of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers may need a Herculean effort to upset the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals but the game’s most prolific playoff scorer said he has beaten similar teams before.
James acknowledged that toppling a Warriors team boasting two-time reigning league MVP Stephen Curry, four-times scoring champion Kevin Durant, defensive specialist Draymond Green and sweet-shooting Klay Thompson will be among the toughest tasks of his career.
But the three-times NBA champion was also quick to point out that he has faced such a talent-laden squad on the NBA’s biggest stage before — in 2013 against San Antonio while playing with Miami — and came out on the winning side.
“It’s probably up there,” James said after practice on Sunday when asked if the upcoming Warriors clash represents the toughest task he has ever faced on court.
“Obviously, I mean, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too with Manu (Ginobili), Kawhi (Leonard), Tony (Parker) and Timmy D (Tim Duncan) on the same team. And if you add Pop (Gregg Popovich) in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.”
James even brought up the Boston Celtics teams he battled in the playoffs, both as a member of Cleveland and Miami, which featured Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and head coach Doc Rivers.
Cleveland may be the reigning champions after having beaten Golden State in last year’s Finals and are 12-1 this postseason but are underdogs against a top-seeded Warriors team sporting an unblemished playoff record.
But James is always up for a challenge and should never be ruled out. Last year he carried his team back from the brink as the Cavs became the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven NBA Finals and win the title.
After Golden State failed to repeat as champions following a campaign in which they had a record 73 wins during the 82-game regular season, they acquired Durant, by far the biggest prize of the free agent market.
James knows he will have his hands full when the series opens on Thursday in Oakland but said he likes his team’s chances of pulling off what Las Vegas would consider an upset.
“Those guys are going to challenge me, they are going to challenge our ballclub,” said James, who last week surpassed Michael Jordan as the all-time playoff leading scorer.
“This is a high powered team … it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally but on our ballcub and on our franchise.” — By Frank Pingue
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)