LeBron James car­ries Cleveland Cava­liers on his back dur­ing NBA play­offs

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - SPORTS - TOM WITHERS

LeBron James re­cov­ered quickly from his neck strain. There’s still too much stress on his back. He’s car­ry­ing the Cava­liers. It’s a spring­time tra­di­tion.

As has been the case for much of his 15-year ca­reer, James has had to per­form at an ex­tra­or­di­nary level through­out these play­offs, most re­cently in Cleveland’s Game 2 loss at Bos­ton.

Bounc­ing back af­ter tak­ing a blow to the jaw from Jayson Ta­tum’s shoul­der that vi­o­lently twisted his head and sent a chill down the spines of Cleveland fans, James fin­ished with 42 points, 10 re­bounds and 12 as­sists.

It was not enough, how­ever. His team­mates failed him and the Cavs fell into a 2-0 hole in the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal.

Kevin Love (22 points, 15 re­bounds) helped, so did Kyle Korver (four three­p­oint­ers) and Tris­tan Thomp­son (8 points, 7 re­bounds). But too many other Cavs ranged from medi­ocre to aw­ful.

If Cleveland is to even the se­ries at home, that has to change start­ing in Game 3 on Satur­day.

“We have to ramp it up,” said J.R. Smith, who didn’t score in Game 2 and com­mit­ted a crit­i­cal fla­grant foul. “We’re play­ing too slow. We’re mak­ing ’Bron play hero ball, which is tough to do, es­pe­cially in the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals. We got to help him. With that said, we have to give him an op­por­tu­nity to make him feel con­fi­dent to give us the ball so we can make the right plays. We got to help him and he’s got to help us.”

Cavs coach Ty­ronn Lue said James “did ev­ery­thing” in prac­tice on Thurs­day, but the 33-year-old had left the floor by the time me­dia mem­bers were al­lowed in for interviews. James was spot­ted in the fit­ness and train­ing area in­side the fa­cil­ity.

Lue said the Cavs spent time break­ing down video of the two losses. There was plenty to dis­sect.

Cleveland has had puz­zling de­fen­sive lapses and Lue said there were up to nine in­stances in Game 2 alone where com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­downs led to easy bas­kets or open shots for the Celtics.

On of­fence, Lue feels Smith and point guard Ge­orge Hill, who have been outscored 72-12 in two games by Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, need to be more ag­gres­sive and at­tack the bas­ket.

Smith be­lieves it’s sim­pler than that.

“Make shots, that’s the only thing we can do,” said Smith, who is 2 for 17 and 0 for 7 on three­p­oint­ers in the se­ries.

We’re play­ing too slow. We’re mak­ing ’Bron play hero ball, which is tough to do, es­pe­cially in the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals. J.R. SMITH CLEVELAND CAVA­LIERS GUARD

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