LeBron James's teams have faced an elimination game 21 times in the playoffs. It was a 10-point game going into the fourth, and as the Celtics fought to gain traction, the Cavs kept them at arm's length.
The series is where it is because the Celtics won Game 5 96-83, even though they shot just 36 percent from the field.
Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers lies on the court after a collision in the first quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. It sure has looked at times as though he relishes these moments, though James said otherwise at Cavaliers shootaround Friday.
James also had high praise for the veteran shooter, saying after the game, "I've loved Kyle ever since we made the trade to get him here". "I think it's just always keeping his body in the right position". "I felt so slow on that play". With an already depleted roster that was missing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics needed their players to step up and make some noise in the playoffs.
One sign of that fatigue was a play in the opening minutes of the third quarter when James, finding himself on the perimeter in a favorable matchup against Aron Baynes, was able to easily blow by the Celtics center.
"If I had to pick one guy and choose one guy to prevail, it would be LeBron", Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.More news: Senate passes measure repealing changes to net neutrality rules
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James has logged an NBA-leading 648 minutes this postseason and that reinforced just how much wear and tear James has endured in his career above and beyond the grind of regular-season play. Fortunately for them, the Cavs played worse.
"I had my moments, but I think everybody at this point is exhausted, worn down whatever the case may be", he said. In game five he looked gassed and not ready to give the kind of performance they need.
The Cavs announced an hour later at halftime that Love wouldn't return. "He's just 20 years old and he has a long way to go, but he's just scratching the surface of how great he can really be".
James was writhing in pain on the floor, but eventually got up and finished the game. That put a smile on James' face, and the two had a amusing little exchange.
Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary. "And I think that the deal is you can't ride the emotional roller coaster".