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James is ready for challenge from Warriors

Tom Withers
Associated Press

Independence, Ohio — There’s a four-headed, shot-making, scoreboard-breaking monster out West awaiting LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

The Warriors are stomach-churning scary.

James, though, can’t run or hide. With eight NBA Finals appearances under his belt, he is ready to face a team he’s called “a beast.” After all, he has slayed behemoths before.

Pushing off any talk about the Warriors until after Sunday’s practice, James was asked to assess the task at hand: beating Golden State’s All-Star-studded lineup of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Is this the biggest challenge of his career?

“It’s probably up there,” he said. “I mean, it’s up there.”

And then, almost as if he was trying to remind himself that he’s got three championship rings and is frightful in his own right, James recalled other fearsome postseason opponents — San Antonio and Boston.

“I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well, too, with Manu (Ginobili), Kawhi (Leonard), Tony (Parker) and Timmy D (Tim Duncan) on the same team,” said James, occasionally sniffling as he continues to fight a cold. “And if you add Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) in there, that’s five Hall of Famers. So, it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me, they’re going to challenge our ballclub.

“This is a high-powered team.”

James also took on a Celtics team loaded with big-name talents.

“I’ve played against Ray (Allen), KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul (Pierce), (Rajon) Rondo and Doc (Rivers). So, it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

Cleveland-Golden State 3.0 is the matchup fans worldwide expected and wanted, and James believes they’re in for quite a show.

Both the Cavaliers and Warriors have upgraded their rosters from a year ago, when they went seven games in an epic series that spawned the first comeback from a 3-1 deficit in Finals history and resulted in Cleveland winning its first pro sports championship since 1964.

That Warriors team James conquered in 2016 won 73 games during the regular season.

Golden State has been putting on a basketball clinic over the past two months, winning 27 of 28 games since March 11 and becoming the first squad to start the postseason 12-0.

Durant previously faced James in the 2012 Finals with Oklahoma City.

James isn’t surprised to see his good friend and Olympic teammate more mobile than he was with the Thunder.

“You adapt to the culture,” he said. “You adapt to the style and that’s the same thing that happened to me when I went to Miami. I started to slash more and move more without the ball, shoot more standstill 3s and figure out ways I could be more productive.”

The Cavaliers are being given little chance to defend their title against the Warriors, who have won by an average of 16.3 points per game in the playoffs.

“I feel good about our chances,” he said. “Very good.”

NBA Finals

Golden State vs. Cleveland

All games on ABC

Thursday : at Golden State, 9 p.m.

Sunday : at Golden State, 8 p.m.

Wednesday, June 7 : at Cleveland, 9 p.m.

Friday, June 9 : at Cleveland, 9 p.m.

x-Monday, June 12 : at Golden State, 9 p.m.

x-Thursday, June 15 : at Cleveland, 9 p.m.

x-Sunday, June 18 : at Golden State, 8 p.m.

x-If necessary