OAKLAND, Calif. — LeBron James has experienced many Finals losses — including 12 to the Golden State Warriors over the past four years — but he admitted that the Game 1 overtime defeat his Cleveland Cavaliers suffered was one of the most painful of his life.
“It’s one of the toughest losses I’ve had in my career as well because of everything that kind of went on with the game and the way we played,” James said Saturday. “It was a tough 24 hours not only for [George] Hill and for myself but for our whole ballclub because we put ourselves in a great position to be successful.”
Hill, who missed a free throw that could’ve won the game with 4.7 seconds remaining, said he was unable to sleep following the loss and watched the replay of the miss over and over.
James, who generally struggles to sleep after playoff losses, was in the same position, as he kept going over the final moments of the fourth quarter in his head.
He said he tried to set an example of moving on starting with Saturday’s practice.
“It’s a new day. For me, I woke up feeling excited about the opportunity for us to get better today, excited about the opportunity that presents itself tomorrow,” James said. “You give yourself a day. If you need to take two days, OK, but today you should feel excited about the opportunity to be better and be great and move forward.”
James is also spending the off days recovering from getting poked in the eye by Warriors forward Draymond Green in the first half of Game 1. James said his vision was diminished in the second half, though he did finish with a career playoff-high 51 points.
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“It doesn’t look better, but the docs told me it’s better,” James said. “It’s just going through a stage right now of recovering. …I’m taking my medication that I’ve been given by the doctors. My eye drops and my antibiotic to help me with the recovery as fast as possible. But it’s an eye. I mean, it’s going to recover as fast as it can on its own. There is nothing you can do. I can’t ice it or anything like that.”
The Cavs spent much of Friday to themselves, as there was no formal team practice. Some players tried to take their minds off it by watching movies. Kyle Korver said he avoided SportsCenter and instead watched the comedy “Billy Madison.” JR Smith watched Tiger Woods play at the Memorial Tournament.
The team had a film session Saturday morning, as they tried to turn the page and begin focusing on Game 2.
“The game is over. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Cavs coach Ty Lue said. “So we’ve got to move on, move forward. And from watching film today and just showing some guys where we can get better, all the guys are in a great spot right now and in a great position.”
The Cavs have only four players left from the 2015 Finals — James, Kevin Love, JR Smith and Tristan Thompson — but are trying to draw on their experience from that Finals to prepare them. That year, they lost a difficult Game 1 in overtime, and the defeat was compounded when Kyrie Irving was lost to a broken kneecap. But the team rallied and recovered to win Game 2 and even that series.
“We were resilient, fought back and forced it to 1-1 back to Cleveland. We’re hoping to do the same,” Love said. “But we’ve got to come out really in those first five minutes [in Game 2] and show what we’re capable of and set the tone.”