LeBron James carries Cleveland Cavaliers on his back during NBA playoffs
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