Basketball

LeBron: We can do something special

Despite four-game losing run, Cavaliers confident of retaining title

LeBron James believes the Cleveland Cavaliers are ready to defend their NBA crown as the post-season gets underway this weekend with the Golden State Warriors desperate to reclaim their throne.

The Cavaliers stumbled into the play-offs after an erratic finale to the regular season which saw them pipped by the Boston Celtics to the No. 1 ranking in the Eastern Conference.

But, despite a four-game losing run which culminated with Wednesday's 98-83 loss to Toronto, James is sure the Cavaliers will raise their game as they prepare for the opener of their best-of-seven series against the Indiana Pacers tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

"We have good chance to win it all, but it starts with our opponents in two days," James said. "So we have to be very determined, but we have to be very smart about our game plan and how we execute.

"Through everything that went on with our team, we're in a position where we can do something special still."

The Cavaliers will head into tomorrow morning's opener buoyed by the knowledge they have already dominated the Pacers this season, winning their mini-series 3-1 over the course of the campaign.

In last year's epic NBA Finals against the Warriors, James inspired the Cavaliers in an unprecedented recovery from 3-1 down to a 4-3 series victory. James is once again relishing his leadership role as the play-offs come into view.

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"Let's get ready to go. Nothing changes for me," James said. "I've got to be the leader of this team every time I step on the floor... And, if I do that, we've got a good chance."

The biggest obstacle to the Cavaliers' chances of a repeat NBA title comes in the formidable shape of the Warriors.

The Western Conference top seeds have by far the best record in this season's NBA, finishing in first place with 67 wins against 15 losses.

Ominously for their rivals, there are signs that the Warriors are building irresistible momentum at the right time.

Kevin Durant has returned to form and fitness following his extended injury lay-off, draining 29 points in 27 minutes during a 109-94 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Stephen Curry, who added 20 points in the win, revealed that the Warriors were brimming with confidence before Monday morning's opening play-off game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Curry explained that the team's mindset had changed from a year ago, when they were defending their title following a record-breaking regular season.

"We're chasing something - we're not protecting anything this year," Curry said.

"Feel good. Feel confident."

Elsewhere in the Western Conference, Russell Westbrook's Oklahoma City Thunder open their series against the James Harden's Houston Rockets on Monday morning.

The second-seeded San Antonio Spurs face the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow morning, while the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz travel to the Los Angeles Clippers. - AFP

NBA