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Adversity strikes Cavs yet again, but LeBron James isn’t fazed by latest challenge

Adversity strikes Cavs yet again, but LeBron James isn’t fazed by latest challenge

BOSTON – LeBron James settled into a seat at the postgame news conference, and if you didn’t see the Boston Celtics’ 108-83 drubbing of James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, you wouldn’t believe it happened. For eight and a half minutes, James verbally shrugged at reporters attempting to get to the root of Sunday’s blowout. Boston’s defense? “I’ve seen every coverage, pretty much,” James said. The Cavs’ awful (15.4 percent) three-point shooting? “We’re going to take those same looks in Game 2, if the opportunity presents itself,” said James. Later, James was asked to explain the start of the fourth quarter, when the Celtics stretched a 14-point lead to 21 in the first 68 seconds. He replied by recounting Boston’s first three offensive possessions — verbatim.

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“I have zero level of concern at this stage,” James said. “I didn’t go to college, so it’s not March Madness. You know, you get better throughout the series. You see ways you can get better throughout the series. But I’ve been down 0-1, I’ve been down 0-2. I’ve been down before in the postseason. But for me, there’s never a level of concern no matter how bad I played tonight, with seven turnovers, how inefficient I was shooting the ball. I’m just as confident going into a series whether it’s a 0-0 series or I’m down 0-1.”

Well, OK then.

James has earned the benefit of the doubt, right? Want adversity? Travel all the way back to Game 2 of the conference quarterfinals, against Indiana. Cleveland had lost Game 1 — at home, no less — and the pesky Pacers were threatening to take a 2-0 series lead. LeBron’s response? Putting up 46 points on 71 percent shooting in a three-point win.

“Game 1 has always been a feel-out game for me,” James said.

Still, Boston isn’t Indiana, and a 2-0 hole against the Celtics is damn near insurmountable, given the way Boston’s Improbable Team has been playing. “Totally different team, different series,” J.R. Smith said. On Saturday, Marcus Morris declared himself to be the best ’Bron defender this side of Kawhi Leonard. On Sunday, he backed it up, limiting James to 15 points, while chipping in 21 points and 10 rebounds.

“I’m a competitor,” Morris said. “He’s the best player. I’m going to be able to tell my kids this one day. It’s exciting. I love the challenge. But it’s a team effort.”

Morris nearly wasn’t as big a part of it. A few minutes into the first quarter, Morris picked up his second foul. Many coaches would have pulled him. Brad Stevens didn’t. As a player, Stevens remembered his rhythm breaking when he was yanked with foul trouble. So, he says, “Ninety-nine percent of the time I lean on the side of not taking [a player] out.” He left Morris in — and Morris picked up just one more foul the rest of the way.

“If he fouls out in the first quarter, somebody else has to play,” Stevens said. “That’s the way it goes.”</p>
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