The best game LeBron James ever played was back in 2012 against the Boston Celtics. He dropped 45 points in an elimination game in Boston to extend the series to seven games and give the Miami Heat a chance to close out the series at home. He played flawless basketball, shooting an incredible 73 percent on 26 shots and grabbing 15 rebounds along the way to lead his team to victory. He was unstoppable, a runaway train that no one could stop. He silenced the Boston Garden the same way he silenced Oracle Arena yesterday (June 13). The Cavaliers ended up winning game five of the NBA Finals 112-97, to bring the series to 3-2, still in favor of the Warriors.
James knows all about elimination games and the pressure that comes with them. King James has stared down the barrel of the gun many times before in his long prestigious NBA career. He thrives under that sort of pressure, when his back is against the wall he tends to play his best ball and come out on top. This year he faced his biggest challenge yet: a do or die game five against the greatest team in the history of the NBA.
Game five was a back and forth contest. The Warriors were playing without their defensive anchor and “do it all” power forward Draymond Green. He had been suspended by the league after he assessed a flagrant foul 1 for his actions in game four.
Green is not only an incredible basketball player but he serves as the team captain of sorts- providing the Warriors with an aura of toughness and swagger. After Golden State center Andrew Bogut went down with an injury there was no one left to provide an inside rim presence for the Dubs. They struggled to contain and stop the Cavaliers from getting to the rim. This ended up being a key factor for Cleveland to be able to come out on top.
James’ performance was key in the victory. He had 41 points to go along with 16 rebounds and seven assists. He cut through the Golden State defense without any trouble, getting to the rim whenever he wanted while also setting up his teammates with precise passes. Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving was also a main scoring contributor with 41 points of his own on 71 percent shooting. The 24-year-old point guard out of Duke was on fire, draining step back jumpers like a young Kobe Bryant. Irving was five of seven from behind the arc and between him and James there was no area on the court where they couldn’t score from.
2016 League MVP Steph Curry played well in game five but was not shooting as efficiently as he usually does. That, along with a horrible shooting night from everyone except Klay Thompson, caused the Warriors to struggle down the stretch. They shot 36 percent from the field as a team, which is no way to win a finals game. Although tied 60-60 entering halftime, the Warriors missed 14 of their first 20 shots out of intermission and shot 7-for-24 in the third. The Cav’s capitalized with the superb play of James and Irving, and never looked back after snatching the lead. The Warriors looked flat on defense, struggling to cut off passes and cause turn overs and even at times having issues with putting hands in the faces of Cleveland shooters. They lacked energy and intensity and the cause of that was clearly because of the absence of Green.
James and Irving’s heroic game five performance wasn’t just clutch but actually ended up being historic. They became the first teammates to score at least 40 points each in an NBA Finals game. The Cavs will need to have similar production from their stars in game six if they hope to have a chance to force a game seven. Green will be back for the Warriors and he is probably going to relish the opportunity for a chance to close out the series in James’ house. The next game will be played on Thursday (June 16). Tip off is at 9 p.m., and it is sure to be an intense matchup.