Bloodied but unbowed, the Cleveland Cavaliers insisted it was far from finished Thursday despite needing a historic comeback to dethrone defending champion Golden State and win the NBA Finals.
The Warriors carries a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven championship series entering Friday's fourth game in Cleveland, where the Cavs had won eight consecutive playoff games until falling 110-102 Wednesday.
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“By no stretch of the imagination do we think the series is over,” Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood said. “It's win or go home now. The season is on the line. Leave it all out there on the court.”
Cavaliers star LeBron James, who scored 51 points in the series opener and had a triple-double in game three, still has blood in his left eye after a poke from Golden State's Draymond Green in the opener.
“It's just part of a war wound,” James said. “That's what happens when you're in the war sometimes, you get some injuries. It hasn't stopped me from preparing.”
No team in NBA history has rallied to win a playoff series after losing the first three games.
“I don't pay attention to the history stuff,” Cavaliers guard George Hill said. “We're still a resilient team. Every guy in this locker room still wants to fight. But we don't focus on history. History doesn't mean anything.
“We made our own bed. Now we've got to dig ourselves out.”
Not since San Antonio swept the Cavs in 2007 has there been a sweep in the NBA Finals, although the Warriors pushed Cleveland to the brink last year also before dropping game four and taking the title in five games.
Not giving in
“You really have to continue to put your foot on the gas. You can't let up. Just continue to stay aggressive,” Cavs forward Kevin Love said.
“We've given ourselves a chance. I know we'll come out in game four and really compete. We're not going to give in.”
The Cavaliers made the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history two years ago, rallying from 3-1 down to swipe the title from the Warriors in seven games.
It will need to surpass that effort to deny Golden State again.
“For a team down 0-3, everybody seems to be on the up-beat. Seem optimistic about our chances, so it's good to see,” Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith said.
“Everybody has been in tough situations. Everybody understands what's at risk and what stage we're on. So to see everybody coming in and communicating, smiles, jokes, it's great to see.
“Our backs are up against the wall and if we don't win, it's over. So if that's not enough motivation for you, I don't know what is.”
Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson says his squad must dig deep to meet the physical and emotional challenge the Warriors will present.
“In order to beat them, you have to have a lot of willpower, and it's going to take a lot of energy,” he said. “You have got to be able to find it, and wherever you're going to take it from, whether your spirit or your stomach, you've got to bring it out. It's win or go home so we've got to leave it all out there.”