How are Cavaliers handling another near meltdown? Just fine



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CLEVELAND — Before the bounded out onto court for their first chance to defend the title they shocked the basketball world with by winning 10 months ago, LeBron James gathered his teammates in the wood-paneled hallway outside the locker room.

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“This is the start of a long-a– journey,” James said. “There’s going to be adversity, there’s going to be challenges. … The key is to stay even-keeled.”

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Adversity hit quicker than expected as the No. 7-seeded swallowed up the No. 2-seeded Cavs’ late 12-point lead and were a CJ Miles midrange jumper away from doing some shocking of their own. Miles’ 14-footer fell short and Cleveland held on for the 109-108 win to go up 1-0.

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Despite the Cavs’ struggles and slim victory in Game 1, Kyrie Irving is not feeling vulnerable “”with the group that we have.”” AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Afterward, Indiana did not appear so even-keeled in digesting the missed opportunity, as Paul George openly questioned Miles for taking the last shot after George passed out of a double team, expecting to have the ball back in his hands for the final attempt.

“I gave the ball up to try to soften them up and get the ball back,” George said. “I talked to CJ about it. In situations like that, I have to have the last shot.”

For Cleveland, meanwhile, it was a game in which it nearly wasted a late lead the way it had so many times in the regular season. It allowed Indiana to shoot 49.4 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from 3 after supposedly locking in on defense all week cheap jerseys. It turned the ball over 11 times, leading to 19 Pacers points. It scored half as many points in the fourth quarter (17) as it did in the first (34). It came one Miles shot away from losing.

Yet the Cavs barely flinched at how dicey things got.

“If I didn’t get that block last year in the Finals, what happens?” James retorted when asked how Cleveland would have handled things had Miles made it. “If href=”http://www.espn.com/nba/player/_/id/3975/stephen-curry”>Steph [Curry] would have made the 3. There’s so many [hypotheticals]. You can’t look at a game like that.

Irving was asked if the overall output in Game 1, which shared some common themes with the Cavs’ disturbing finish to the regular season in terms of shoddy defense and failure to protect a lead, left him and his teammates feeling vulnerable. “Feel vulnerable? Hell, no,” he quipped. “Not going into any game with the group that we have. I understand there’s some mistakes that happen throughout the game and the regular season didn’t end cheap jerseys the way we wanted it to, but like I said, it’s just a step in the right direction. Game 1, just taking care of home floor and have to come out for Game 2 with an even higher focus and even better level of intensity, limit our mistakes, and we will be good.”

It’s one thing to remain calm when trouble hits. It’s another thing to convince yourself there are no signs of impending doom, like the meme of the dog in the top hat sitting in a burning house saying, “This is fine.”

There’s a fine line. Just like the Cavs rationalized their regular-season struggles by pointing to injuries, roster upheaval and scheduled rest as the main causes of their disappointing record, they could recognize their atypical 14-for-27 night from the free-throw line or Irving’s off 11-for-27 showing from the field (including 1-for-9 from 3) as evidence that the Pacers had no business being in the game wholesale nba jerseys.

“I’m happy we got the victory,” said James. “I’m happy how emotional we was. I’m happy with the energy and the effort. Played with energy and effort all night. … Game 1 has always been a feel-out game for myself. Seeing what you can do, seeing ways you can get better and you always go into Game 2 even more prepared because you want to see what type of game plan they have. As the series goes on and on, we start to know more about the team, more about your opponent and try to be better the next game. But, this was a great start for us.”

A great start to what he figures will be a long-a– journey.