The Cavs have been here before, but the Warriors are a different team

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CLEVELAND — LeBron James is stressed out.

Two years in a row, James’ Cavaliers have fallen into a big hole in the NBA Finals against the Warriors. Last year, it was a 3-1 deficit. This time, it was a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 hole. For the second year in a row, the Cavs must make an improbable comeback if it wants to hoist the trophy.

“It causes too much stress, man,” James said after a 137-116 victory in Game 4 to stave off a sweep. “I’m stressed out. Keep doing this every year.”

The win on Friday, though, may have done more than stress out LeBron. It might have pushed some stress to the other side. After all, “blowing a 3-1 lead” has become a widely circulated joke. And these two teams are in the same situation again, with the Cavaliers down 3-1, heading to Oakland for Game 5.

“Man, different team,” Stephen Curry said, shooting down a question about the familiarity of the situation.

He’s right. The Warriors suiting up on Monday will be much different from the team at the same point in 2016. For one, instead of Harrison Barnes, who averaged less than 10 points per game in last year’s Finals, the Warriors upgraded to Kevin Durant, whose 34.3 points per game average might have him in line for Finals MVP.

In addition, Draymond Green, who was suspended for Game 5 last year, will be playing. With all of the Warriors’ big guns healthy, the Cavaliers understand where they stand.

“They got us where they want us,” James said.

Kyrie Irving added: “We understand how special that team is down there. We don’t knock them off of taking one loss or us getting one win.”

A lot was said before these Finals about the non-competitiveness of the NBA playoffs – the Warriors became the first team in history to start the playoffs 15-0 and sport a point differential of 13.8 points, while the Cavaliers lost just once before the Finals. Before Game 4, there were grumbles as the Warriors breezed through Games 1 and 2 at home and stole Game 3 on the road to take a 3-0 lead.

Still, the series could easily be tied 2-2. The Cavaliers brought their A-game in Game 3, which they could have won if not for an open missed corner 3-pointer by Kyle Korver and Durant’s heroics. At the very least, the near-win gave Cleveland some life.

“We know we’re down 3-0, but we thought we gave a game away in Game 3,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. “So we knew this team was beatable, we knew we can play better, and [Game 4] is the result you get when we play at our best.”

Irving said that the Cavaliers “finally settled in.”

“It was about damn time, for all of us to really see what playing well as a group looks like against a great team like the Warriors,” he said.

But there’s no indication that the 3-1 talk is going to get to the Warriors. This is a different year, a different situation, and, as Curry said, a different team – one with more experience, and with Kevin Durant.

“I love the vibe we had in the locker room after the game, understanding what we need to do differently to play better,” he said.

And on the other side?

“We’re a resilient team,” Love said. “We have been in this situation before. We never count ourselves out.”

If the Cavaliers want to prove their resilience, they’ll have to win three more stress-induced games like the last one, starting Monday.

Philadelphia 76ers could be top contenders in the East for playoffs

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The new duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers have proved they are a top team in the league as they sit in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference below the Miami Heat. The NBA playoffs have now come into question as the league enters the last month of regular season play.

Vincent Goodwill tells Mike Smith and Michael Holley he’s not sold on the 76ers being a favorite in the Eastern conference, yet. Harden has scored over 25 points in his first three games with his new team and has formed a good connection on the court with possible NBA MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

With the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks right behind the 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings, the margin for error is getting thin for Philadelphia since Embiid and Harden are key players.

Have the Philadelphia 76ers shown they should be favorites in the East or do they need more time, especially with Harden still in his first couple weeks with the team?

 

How to watch the Battle Showcase Series: Live stream, TV schedule for this weekend’s basketball games

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Spalding Hoophall Classic
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Elite high school football and basketball games are headed to NBC Sports and Peacock, starting with the Battle Showcase Series this weekend at Florida Memorial University. On Saturday, October 9, and Sunday, October 10 seven highly anticipated basketball matchups will take place. See below for the full schedule and additional information on how to watch the games.

Headlining this weekend’s competition is a match-up between Vertical Academy and the California Basketball Club as Mikey Williams, the country’s No. 2-rated high school junior and top player in the state of North Carolina, faces UCLA commit Amari Bailey and LeBron “Bronny” James Jr. That battle will take place on Saturday, October 9 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Both teams will compete again on Sunday, October 10. Vertical Academy will face Life Christian Academy at 2:00 p.m. ET on Peacock, and the California Basketball Club will battle the KT Kings at 5:00 p.m. ET on Peacock.

Then, on Thursday, October 14 the inaugural Battle Football Showcase is set to take place on NBCSN featuring top high school quarterback Arch Manning, the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and New York Giants two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning, and grandson of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning. Manning and the Isidore Newman School will face St. Charles Catholic, their in-state rival, at 7:00 p.m. ET. Live stream will be available via the NBC Sports App.


How to watch the Battle Showcase Series:

*All times are listed as ET

Saturday, October 9:

3:00 PM, Game 1: Rip City (NSU University School) vs Life Christian Academy – Peacock

4:30 PM, Game 2: The High (Miami Senior) vs KT Kings (Calvary Christian) – Peacock

6:00 PM, Game 3: The Explorers (Christopher Columbus) vs The View (Riverview) – NBCSN

8:00 PM, Game 4: California Basketball Club (Sierra Canyon) vs Vertical Academy – NBCSN

Sunday, October 10:

2:00 PM, Game 1: Vertical Academy vs Life Christian Academy – Peacock

3:30 PM, Game 2: The View (Riverview) vs Rip City (NSU University School) – Peacock

5:00 PM, Game 3: KT Kings (Calvary Christian) vs California Basketball Club (Sierra Canyon) – Peacock


How to watch the Battle Football Showcase:

  • Where: St. Charles Catholic High School in Laplace, Louisiana
  • When: Thursday, October 14
  • Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: NBCSN
  • Stream live: Watch live with the NBC Sports App