LeBron James says Game 3 is 'do or die' for Cavaliers

LeBron: Can't afford to go down 3-0 (0:53)

LeBron James examines the challenge the Cavaliers face ahead of Game 3 of the NBA Finals and what it will mean if Kevin Love can't play. (0:53)

CLEVELAND -- Trailing the Golden State Warriors 2-0 in the NBA Finals and dealing with uncertainty regarding Kevin Love's playing status, LeBron James projected an aura of urgency when he spoke to the media Tuesday.

"It's going to be the next man up," James said in advance of Wednesday's Game 3. "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, because it's a must-win for us."

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was noncommittal about Love's status, sharing only that the star forward was "feeling better" after suffering a concussion in Game 2. Lue said the Cavaliers wouldn't know whether Love could play until Wednesday.

A source close to the three-time All-Star told ESPN that Love was optimistic about his chances of playing in Game 3.

"Obviously his health is very important, but in the situation we're in now, we've got to stay confident," James said. "And whoever Coach decides to give the nod to got to be ready to go, and everybody else has to step up."

Regardless of whether the Cavs have Love on Wednesday and whether they opt for some of the lineup changes that Lue admitted he has discussed internally with his coaching staff in the days since Game 2, James stressed the importance of bringing a better effort than his team did in Oakland, where Cleveland dropped the first two games by a combined 48 points.

"Obviously, it's a do-or-die game for us," James said. "We can't afford to go down 3-0 to any team, especially a team that's 73-9 in the regular season and playing the type of basketball they're playing. So it's a do-or-die game for us, and we understand that.

"So we're going to come in and give everything that we've got and leave it on the floor."

Cleveland is 7-0 on its home floor this postseason, while the Warriors are 3-4 on the road. Perhaps that's why James maintained a shred of optimism.

"I don't think it's an adverse moment, but I would say that we all can sit here and say there is no way we can go down 3-0, you know," James said. "And I'm not a big history guy, even though I love the history of the sport, but I don't like to put myself in it. But coming back home and understanding this is our home floor and we've played some really good basketball, we can't afford to go down 3-0, especially against this team.

"So it will be more adversity if we got to that point, which I don't believe we will."

The Cavs are the 32nd team in Finals history to fall down 2-0; only three of the first 31 teams to fall into such a hole went on to win the championship.

"I mean, history is something that's made to be broken, so we're not worried about being down 2-0," Lue said. "It's not over until the team wins four games, and we know that. We've just got to execute. When we get chances on the break to convert, we've got to convert. When we get open shots, we've got to take advantage of open shots. We just can't turn the basketball over like we've been doing. If they turn the ball over 20 times, which is good, in our home building, we should be fine to get out and run and play with pace.

"But we're not discouraged. They won two games, and the series is not over until you win four."

James also responded to New York Knicks president Phil Jackson's suggestion that the Cavs superstar could turn the series around much the same way Michael Jordan bailed the Chicago Bulls out of a 2-0 hole to the Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conference finals if he "played like a man possessed."

"I mean, what does that actually mean?" James asked. "I mean, I think for me to go out and be who I am and play as true to the game and as hard as I can and try to lead this team, that's who I am. Not anybody else.

"I'm not Michael. I'm not [Muhammad] Ali. I'm not nobody else that's done so many great things for sport. I am who I am, and if I'm able to go out and put together a game like that, it wasn't because I was possessed. It's because I worked on my craft all season long, and that's the result of it. Phil's a great coach. Mike's a great player. But I am who I am."