Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James says Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors is a "must win" for the Cleveland Cavaliers

With the Cleveland Cavaliers heading home down 2-0 in the NBA Finals, LeBron James says it's a do-or-die game for the Eastern Conference Champions.

If Cavs fans are feeling a bit helpless, they should know that they're alone in their beliefs that their basketball season is about to come to an abrupt end.

Behind the scenes, the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by head coach Ty Lue, are reminding themselves of the Conference Finals that saw the Toronto Raptors rattle off two consecutive wins on their home court after being blown out by the Cavs in Games 1 and 2. They're reminding themselves of a Golden State Warriors team, the very one that held serve through the first two games of the NBA Finals, being down 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, losing two games by more than 50 combined points. And they're reminding themselves that that same Warriors team is a pedestrian 3-4 on the road in these NBA Playoffs, struggling in Game 3s across the board, while it is the Cavaliers who have yet to lose a game at home. Mathematics may dictate that the Cleveland Cavaliers will play a game on Friday regardless of the outcome on Wednesday night, but LeBron James says that Game 3, cherry-picked historical benchmarks notwithstanding, is a "must win" for a team that is currently dealing with a 2-0 deficit.

"It's a do-or-die game for us," said James on Tuesday following the team's practice at Quicken Loans Arena. "We can't afford to go down 3-0 to any team, especially a team that's 73-9 in the regular season and is playing the type of basketball they're playing. So we understand that. We're going to come in and give everything that we've got and leave it on the floor." Following the Game 2 drubbing at the hands of the Warriors, James took to the podium and shouldered much of the blame, focusing primarily on turnovers and the easy points Golden State was able to score as a result. Typically staying at the arena for additional treatment following his media obligations, James rarely catches the first bus back to the team hotel. On Sunday night, however, James boarded the first bus, parked his 250-pound frame next to teammate James Jones and began re-watching a game many fans would have preferred to turn off in the second quarter. The voluntary film session continued once that wave of Cavaliers arrived at the hotel in San Francisco, the four-time MVP left to analyze how his dominance throughout the last six weeks had been reduced to a turnover-prone forward who was struggling to get a clean look at the rim.

He saw some over aggressiveness. He watched as he uncharacteristically traveled on multiple possessions, poorly executing on footwork that has been among the best in the NBA since his arrival in 2003. Out of the seven turnovers he committed on Sunday night, James felt three simply occurred in the flow of the game, but four of them could have been avoided.

The Cavaliers offense, to this point in the playoffs, had been predicated upon James and point guard Kyrie Irving getting to the rim with relative ease, kicking the ball out to a bevy of shooters waiting to snipe from the three-point line. Against the Warriors, however, the Cavaliers have been suffocated, shooting below 40 percent from the floor in both contests, missing 28 shots in the paint alone in Game 1. Elias Sports Bureau says that only two teams have shot worse during the championship series — the 1998-99 Knicks (35.6 percent vs. the Spurs) and the 2008-09 Magic (35.9 percent vs. the Lakers), both teams falling short of their dream. Not helping matters will be the potential loss of Kevin Love who left Game 2 midway through the third quarter after sustaining a concussion.

"It's going to be the next man up," said James. "We're down 0-2, and we can't afford to look and say 'Wow, Kev's not playing—what are we going to do?' It's next man up and whoever Coach decides to give the nod has got to be ready to go and everybody else has to step up." 1

Given how lopsided the first two games of this series have been, it would be easy to bury the Cavaliers' title hopes for 2016. But for all the success that the Warriors have had against the Cavaliers, however, James has boiled it down to a 12-minute window in Game 1 and 2.5 quarters in Game 2 that set the series down its current path. Behind the scenes, the Cavaliers are a team that appeared very loose on their own practice court, a level of increased comfort that comes with returning from a week-long trip to the west coast. The plane ride home was undoubtedly a quiet one, but for for all of the discouragement and poor body language in the moment, the Cavs are a team that will be quick to remind you that the Warriors, who have struggled mightily in Game 3s thus far (2-5 under head coach Steve Kerr), were much worse off that they currently are when they were down 3-1 a series ago.

"When you win one game, it changes the whole series," said Lue. "We're not in as bad of shape as they were, and they came back and took it one game at a time like we do. We're confident, and we're home."

1 Tyronn Lue would not delve into any specifics regarding Love nor who would take the majority of his minutes in the event he could not play

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