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Prior to a Jan. 16 clash in Oakland between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the defending champs had beaten their cross-country rival four straight times, including a historic Finals comeback and a Christmas Day thriller -- a game in which...

How two uneasy moments made Cavs better equipped for Warriors

Prior to a Jan. 16 clash in Oakland between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the defending champs had beaten their cross-country rival four straight times, including a historic Finals comeback and a Christmas Day thriller -- a game in which...

How two uneasy moments made Cavs better equipped for Warriors

Prior to a Jan. 16 clash in Oakland between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the defending champs had beaten their cross-country rival four straight times, including a historic Finals comeback and a Christmas Day thriller -- a game in which Golden State coughed up a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and ultimately lost by a point.

Even with the highly publicized addition of Kevin Durant, Cleveland still found a way to extend its winning streak over Golden State.

In the days leading up to that contest in January, something about the Cavs' demeanor didn't sit right with GM David Griffin. It's still unknown whether he suspected overconfidence or complacency with his group, but management felt that a humbling experience against the Warriors might be necessary for the team's growth moving forward.

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The Cavs are ending February on a high note. And things are looking up even more moving forward, with the roster adding reinforcements.

Point guard Deron Williams signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, giving the NBA champions another playmaker to help them defend their title.

And like clockwork, an embarrassing 35-point loss ensued, Cleveland's worst defeat of the season.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving shot a combined 12-for-37 from the field. They each had six turnovers. James had a plus-minus of minus-32, the lowest in the game. Kevin Love shot 1-for-6 for 3 points.

"I played like s---," James said while walking out of Oracle Arena. "I didn't have it tonight."

Griffin saw the concern on his guys' faces after the game. That's exactly what he wanted to see. Doubt had reappeared. James' comments came a week later.

In New Orleans on Jan. 23, after the Cavaliers' fifth loss in seven games, James told a group of local reporters that he hopes the franchise isn't satisfied with the collecting of one ring. He also had harsh, blunt critiques about the construction of the roster.

"We top-heavy as s---," James said. "It's me, [Irving], [Love]. It's top-heavy."

There was some uneasiness within the locker room following James' candid rant. Players were all of a sudden awkwardly left wondering if they were part of the problem or part of the solution.

Griffin fired back the next day, calling James' remarks "misguided."

Despite the internal conflict, with the liberty of hindsight, the front office now believes James was brilliant in lashing out and considers it one of the turning points in the season.

James had hoped that such a bold controversial assessment might galvanize the team. It appears that may be the case. Cleveland is 11-4 since and appears ready for a third straight push to the Finals.

The Warriors continue to be the ultimate motivator for the Cavaliers. It's been that way the past few years. Former Cavaliers coach David Blatt was fired partly because of the belief that he couldn't get the team past Golden State.

On a great day, the Warriors can go nine-deep in their rotation by inserting reserves Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, Shaun Livingston and David West. Potentially adding veteran point guard Jose Calderon is being viewed as an insurance policy. The Warriors have widely been considered the pound-for-pound kings of the NBA.

The Cavs, with recent additions of Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams and Deron Williams, who signed with the team Monday, can now argue that their hats belong in the ring.

When J.R. Smith and Love return to full health, Cleveland will have the capabilities of going up to 11 deep with subs Korver, Derrick Williams, Deron Williams, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and Richard Jefferson. And should a newly bought-out Andrew Bogut choose to join the Cavaliers, that rotation could shoot to 12.

It has the makings of the deepest roster James has possessed during his career. The Cavaliers' best lineup in recent weeks has centered around James, Korver, Jefferson, Derrick Williams and Frye. It's a cerebral roster with flexibility and versatility.

James has the help he called out for, and Griffin now has that sense of urgency back in his locker room.

Griffin on the team's shift, told ESPN "it's joyful to watch." And speaking of watching, the Warriors and Cavaliers monitor each other throughout the season very closely, although they won't admit it. Each transaction is discussed and made with the other in mind.

These two powerhouses desperately want a third consecutive Finals showdown. In 2015, Love and Irving were sidelined with injuries and the Warriors won in six. In 2016, Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5 and the Cavaliers came back from 3-1 to capture their first championship.

Each side being whole for the duration of the Finals is what could make Cavaliers-Warriors III something special. Health isn't promised, but barring a disastrous turn of events, a much-anticipated Round 3 looks to be on its way.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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