LeBron: ‘Last guy to ask’ about playoff deficits

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Updated: April 15, 2018

11:40 PM ET

CLEVELAND — Sunday’s 98-80 loss to the Indiana Pacers put Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James in an 0-1 hole in the first round for the first time in his career.

But James projected confidence looking ahead to Game 2.

“I’ve always stayed even-keeled with the postseason,” James said after registering his 20th career playoff triple-double with 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. “I mean, I’m down 0-1 in the first round. I was down 3-1 in the Finals. So I’m the last guy to ask about how you’re going to feel the next couple days.”

Indeed, James and the Cavs crawled back from a 3-1 deficit against a record-setting Golden State Warriors team in the 2016 NBA Finals to capture the first championship in franchise history.

But that team had more time together and a combination of more top-level talent (such as Kyrie Irving, now with the Boston Celtics) and more playoff-tested role players (such as Richard Jefferson, now with the Denver Nuggets) than this season’s.

Game 1, according to James, was a rude awakening for some of his teammates getting their first real taste of competing in the playoffs on a team with a target on its back as a title contender.

James led all players with 44 minutes played — none more entertaining than when he was matched up against his old foe, Lance Stephenson.

The Pacers backup forward made his stamp on the game by scoring 12 points off the bench in 17 minutes and adding five rebounds, but he was also called for a technical foul for striking James in the head after he was whistled for a common foul for body-checking him.

“Listen, it’s fun,” James said of Stephenson. “He’s a competitor. He don’t back down from nobody, and I definitely don’t as well. So it’s going to be a good series.”

Indiana coach Nate McMillan acknowledged that he kept Stephenson on somewhat of a short leash.

“He did some good things,” McMillan said. “We knew that the eyes were going to be on both he and LeBron. You have to control your emotions out there. You can’t be drunk on emotions. I thought we kind of lost it there for a little bit in that second half. We made a substitution, and we was able to get it back. You don’t want to take aggressiveness away from your players, but you’ve got to be smart out there and calm and make good decisions.”

Stephenson shrugged off the technical — “”I don’t care. They called it. I don’t care.” — and volunteered to go at James again as the series continues.

“As long as my teammates have my back, I’ll control what I can control,” he said. “It’s the playoffs. You expect to be pushed.”

We’ll see just how far the Pacers can push the Cavs if they go up 2-0 after Wednesday’s Game 2.

“I get to rest,” James said. “I’ll take the two days. I need the two days now. I didn’t expect to play 44. But I get an opportunity to take the two days, me personally, and I hope the guys do the same thing to try to get their minds and their bodies refocused on what we need to do to win a ballgame.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23192104/lebron-james-come-back-playoffs-plenty-s-before

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