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He must be perfect. Twice in a row. Against a Boston Celtics team that can taste its ahead-of-schedule trip to the NBA Finals.
Boston’s 96-83 win Wednesday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals puts James and the Cavs on the brink of elimination and all that’ll come with it: speculation about the franchise’s future, James’ plans for the final phase of his career and the fate of relevant basketball in Cleveland as we know it.
Anything less than James’ best, and the Cavs are finished.
James wasn’t perfect Wednesday, but he was plenty good, certainly better than his teammates. Even if that isn’t saying much.
He put up 26 points on 11-of-22 shooting, 10 rebounds and five assists. His six turnovers hurt, but many of those were the result of Boston’s disruptive length and shrewd double-teams, which shuttered passing windows as soon as they opened. Considering how no other Cavalier had more than six made field goals or two assists, you can excuse James’ mistakes in light of the load he carried.
It was enough to wear anyone down.
George Hill and JR Smith combined for two made buckets and respective on-court plus-minus figures of minus-21 and minus-19. Head coach Tyronn Lue held Kyle Korver out for the entire first and third quarters, instead riding Smith on the theory that…well…it’s hard to say.
The Celtics have targeted Korver on defense, but the Cavs scored a pitiful 83 points in Game 5. Cleveland needed his gravity and shooting. Lue’s explanation for holding out one of his best offensi