INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — As they jumped around the locker room dousing each other with ice water and howling after earning their second straight trip to the NBA finals, the Cavaliers were one.

No out-of-control egos. No division. No squabbling. These were basketball brothers bonded by a common goal, ready to take on the world.

For months, that wasn’t the case.

Underperforming despite a trio of superstars and one of the league’s deepest rosters, the Cavs were imploding before a late-night meeting in New York helped save their season.

In the hours after a disappointing 104-95 loss to Brooklyn on March 25, the Cavs gathered in their Manhattan hotel and cleared the air.

“Once we had that meeting, I just think the team understood what we needed from each other to win – if we wanted to win,” Coach Tyronn Lue said Monday. “And I give them credit. They bought into it and you’ve seen the results of it.”


With two series sweeps and a tougher-than-expected matchup with Toronto, the united Cavs have gone 12-2 in this postseason to reach yet another NBA finals. If not for that after-hours talk they had in March, the Cavaliers’ title run may have ended weeks ago.

The troubling loss to the Nets – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love went a combined 1 for 11 in the fourth quarter – was the low point in a season that included questions about whether Cleveland’s front office had made a mistake in re-signing Love to a maximum contract, Irving’s health, and whether James would bolt again as a free agent.

But as each player expressed his feelings during the meetings, tension gave way to togetherness.

“We had a chance to sit down and talk,” Lue said. “I just think the Big Three sitting down and getting on the same page of understanding what they need from each other on a nightly basis and understanding that they have to trust each other and also trust the team. We had that talk in front of everyone and everyone kind of gave their opinion and kind of talked about what they expected and what we needed to do better.”

Also a much closer one. Whether it’s their choreographed handshakes, team dinners or going to James’ house to watch games, the Cavs have become almost inseparable.

And beyond the heartfelt talk in New York, the additions of veterans Richard Jefferson (signed to a one-year deal last July) and Channing Frye (acquired in a February trade) were pivotal in helping Cleveland find harmony.

The longtime close friends have been selfless, willing to take subordinate roles while also mentoring the younger Cavs.

“Just having those guys in the locker room, talking to the younger guys about what it’s all about – winning,” Lue said. “They’ve been on losing teams where they haven’t made the playoffs and you win 25 games. So they’ve seen both sides of it.”

The Cavs are four wins from ending Cleveland’s 52-year pro sports championship drought, and the city is anxiously bracing for either an unmatched party or more heartache.

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