Friday night's Game 6 matchup between the Cavs and Celtics came down to one key factor.
Larry Nance Jr. fell and hit LeBron on the way down in the fourth quarter. The Cavs have been desperate for his production throughout the series and would need other role players to step up in a big way if the All-Star forward is unable to play.
In 21 games in which his team has faced elimination in the playoffs, James is averaging an NBA-record 33.5 points. Oh, and he played 46 minutes and only had three turnovers. Led by LeBron James' 21 first-quarter points, Cleveland jumped out to an early lead and led by as many as 11 points. The NBA is more geared towards the three-point shot now, and while James has not shot as well there as the past two postseasons, his 30.9% from deep means he can not be ignored there either. Nance took flight while guarded by the Celtics' Marcus Morris.
So if James didn't already have his work cut out for him when it comes to rest and recovery heading into Game 7, the right leg injury only makes the treatment that much more vital.
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Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. And the player couldn't be better in this moment.
The toll 82 regular season games and 16 playoff games has taken on James was evident on May 23 when the Cavs were beaten by the Celtics, 96-83, in Game 5 in Boston.
"It's an absolute blast to prepare for as a coach", Stevens said of Game 7, "and to play in as a player".
"I can't say that on camera".
Things turned for good in the second quarter, when the Celtics could only manage 18 points. Love, who missed a March 28 game at Charlotte with a concussion, immediately raised his arm as if to signal he needed help. I haven't always played great in my career.
Tyronn Lue: LeBron James Will Be Great in Game 6
Jaylen Brown scored 27 for Boston, who led by five at the end of a spirited first quarter but finally had no answer for James. He finished with 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, that included two fantastic dagger 3-pointers in the final minutes.
"We were short on timeouts and I was about to take one", Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said of incident.
A few post-ups did result in free throws, but the Celtics left some points at the line, shooting 11-for-20.
To a Boston fan, the only Cav one wouldnt want to be in the Cleveland lineup outside of All-Stars James and Kevin Love, is Korver. You expect games like this on elimination nights. Five of Hill's seven shots came within the paint.
Brad Stevens surprised reporters by revealing his starting lineup after joking to the media prior to Game 5 that he only did it in the past because he hadn't been told he had an option.
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