LeBron James dismissed his Game 5 performance as just an off night. Will Game 6 in Boston be the King's final contest wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey?
LeBron James is supposed to be the best player in the NBA and probably is, but he hasn’t been close to being the best player in this series. King James showed a side of personality not seen often after he gave a lame effort like his teammates in Game 5 debacle.
After losing 120-88 as seven-point home favorites, James had this to say about his 15-point showing.
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"I spoil a lot of people with my play," James said. "When you have a bad game here or there, you've had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it's easy to point that out. So you got to be better.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to be out there and be the best player on the court, and when I'm not I feel bad for myself because I'm not going out there and doing the things I can do. But I don't hang my head low or make any excuses about anything that may be going on, because that's not the type of player or person I am."
It’s a bit presumptuous for James to say he’s had three lousy games in his career, but what basketball fans and those rooting for the Cavaliers want to know is where is the burning desire?
Is the elbow a much bigger issue? Does he find the lack proficiency from his teammates appalling? Does he not trust his coach in being knowledgeable to lead this club? Has he mentally checked out thinking about playing somewhere else?
Cleveland is 24-7-1 ATS off a defeat by 10 or more points, but this was one for the record books. No NBA with a regular season win percentage of .700 or higher had ever lost a home playoff game by 30 or more points. (Thanks Elias Sports)
What can the Cavaliers do to send this to Game 7? Having Mike Brown coach his players might help.
For starters if Antwan Jamison is not going to provide points on offense, get him off the floor; he’s a defensive liability. J.J. Hickson was valuable in the latter part of the season; use his intensity and defense to at least do something on one end of the floor.
Brown has to find an answer for Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas to rotate better on weakside passes by Boston, who is feasting in the paint with layups or short jump shots.
Mo Williams either decides to play or should sit. He has yet to guard Rajon Rondo and his offensive production is nil.
Lastly, LeBron has to determine what he wants. His elbow is unquestionably bothering him and he doesn’t trust his own jump shot, passing up at least seven wide open looks he had Tuesday night. But where is the explosiveness to the rim?
Yes, Boston has had a few nice wrinkles to limit James. But does the game’s best player settle for idle dribbles and pass to teammate or use his brute force like in the past and blow to the cup and score or find Cavs teammate standing by himself with wide open look at the bucket with collapsing defense?
Interesting to note: Cleveland is 2-9 ATS in last 11 outings against teams with winning record.
Boston has outplayed and outhustled its younger opponent and is 7-3 ATS in the postseason. The Celtics don’t want to take any chances.
"We cannot come back here," Kevin Garnett said. "We have to think this is our Game 7 coming up and we cannot afford to have the best team in the league have a Game 7 on their floor. Just not possible."
Bookmaker.com has Boston as one-point favorites, as the Celtics go for their second three-game winning streak in the playoffs. The C’s are 2-10 ATS off a road win by 10 points or more this season and 17-4 'under' after a huge blowout victory by 30 or more. Cleveland has its back against the proverbial wall and is 2-5 ATS in last seven as road underdogs and is 16-5 'over' revenging a home massacre loss of 20 points or more.
The biggest deciding factor is LeBron’s mental state. This contest is being played with one day between games and James is shooting 36.1 percent on his meager total of 47 shot attempts, including 0-13 beyond the arc in this East semifinal with less than 48 hours between contests. In the two games Cleveland has won and covered, James is shooting 56.5 percent on 46 shots with two or more days in between outings. The Cavs are 0-6 ATS with one day of rest since April 11.
Game 6 is on ESPN at 8 p.m. Eastern and if Cleveland can force one more game, they will have two days off between conflicts.
StatFox Power Line – Boston by 6