The Cleveland Cavaliers have not been competitive on the road in their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics. Following a 13-point loss in Boston Wednesday night, the three-time defending conference champs have lost all three road games in this series by a combined 51 points.
Given that Cleveland has to not only win Game 6 at home Friday but come out on top in Boston in Game 7 to take the series, a lot of people are already discounting the Cavaliers.
That would be utterly foolish in every possible way. The reason? LeBron James. As good as James has been throughout a record-breaking career, he’s been even better in elimination games.
In fact, James is averaging 35.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 9.1 assists the last seven times Cleveland has faced elimination. Even in last year’s Game 5 loss to Golden State in the NBA Finals, James went for a 41-13-8 stat line. Facing elimination in the first round against Indiana, James put up 45 points en route to helping Cleveland come out on top in Game 7.
The moral of the story is clear here. Once we have decided to write James off, he does something that reminds us he’s among the best to ever take to an NBA hardwood. We can’t expect anything different come Game 6, and if the series does ultimately go the distance.
Sure James is tired. He pretty much admitted that following a less-than-inspiring Game 5 outing in Boston Wednesday evening.
“I had my moments,” James said when asked if he was tired, via ESPN. “I think everybody at this point is tired or worn down. I’m fine. I didn’t mention fatigue, (the media) did.”
James is too proud to outwardly admit that he’s tired. He’s also among the best conditioned athletes in the world. How else could we explain the three-time NBA champ going strong after having played nearly 750 games since the start of the 2010-11 season?
The King’s supporting cast has also been crap throughout the Eastern Conference Finals.
"This isn't an indictment on LeBron James in any way, shape or form. Nobody can win with nothing and that's what he's getting… This is the worst supporting cast he's ever had this deep in the playoffs." — @Chris_Broussard pic.twitter.com/ehReQBjAlD
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) May 24, 2018
Take Game 5 as an example. Starters Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and George Hill combined to shoot 2-of-14 with 10 points and just four assists. That type of production from a supporting cast just won’t cut it.
In no way does this mean that James can’t go superhuman over the final two games of the series. He’s the best player on the court. Boston has won just one game on the road this postseason.
Meanwhile, Cleveland has won its past four homes games by an average of 19 points. In those games, James is averaging 34.5 points and shooting well over 60 percent from the field. One could easily conclude that Game 6 at home is a gimme for Cleveland.
If that is indeed the case, it would set up a do-or-die Game 7 back in Boston. Is there a single player in today’s NBA that you’d trust more to lead your team to a Game 7 win than Mr. James?
So while pretty much everyone decides to discount Cleveland’s chances, James is out here putting in the work. He’ll be ready to go for Game 6. He’ll be in his truly elite form. That has to be scary for a Boston team that’s on the verge of knocking out the Godzilla of the east.