Is James a cut above?

Stitched-up star says he was ‘gassed’ in Game 4 rout. Can he mend Cava­liers in time to win ti­tle?

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike Bres­na­han

SAN FRAN­CISCO — LeBron James wore a black pork pie hat af­ter Game 4, cov­er­ing up the stitches he re­ceived af­ter tum­bling head­first into a court­side TV cam­era.

You have to won­der: What else is he hid­ing?

He looked fa­tigued and worn when the Cleve­land Cava­liers needed him most, go­ing score­less in the fourth quar­ter as a six-point deficit quickly turned into a Golden State War­riors rout. He took two shots — a 16-footer and a step-back jumper — and was un­suc­cess­ful on both. The NBA Fi­nals are now tied at 2-2 and head­ing back to Golden State for Sun­day’s

game af­ter James ad­mit­ted he was “gassed out.”

A stum­ble was some­what sur­pris­ing af­ter his nearflaw­less Games 2 and 3, his meek 20-point ef­fort nowhere near the Cleve­land low points of Earnest Byner’s fum­ble or John El­way’s drive, but also not close to help­ing the over­whelm­ingly un­der­manned Cava­liers.

The best ex­cuses for James were the sim­plest ones. He’s hu­man. An over­played one. With a streaky, untested sup­port­ing cast.

The 41 min­utes he played in the 103-82 loss Thurs­day were a mere trifle af­ter log­ging 46, 50 and 46.

“I was pretty much gassed ei­ther from driv­ing, cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for my team­mates, get­ting to the free-throw line, get­ting of­fen­sive glass, just try­ing to make that push,” James said.

Cava­liers fans seemed en­er­vated too, fil­ter­ing qui­etly out of Quicken Loans Arena with sev­eral min­utes left while Golden State fans re­peated their melodic, al­most haunt­ing, “War-ri­ors, War­riors” chant.

The thought surely f lick­ered through James’ mind, the where-would-we-be ques­tion if every­body was healthy.

All-Star point guard Kyrie Irv­ing was missed by the Cava­liers, along with his 19point play­off av­er­age. Kevin Love too, with play­off av­er­ages of 14.3 points and seven re­bounds.

A head­line in Thurs­day’s Cleve­land Plain Dealer said it all: “A lit­tle help would be great.”

Matthew Dellave­dova couldn’t match his 20-point out­burst in Game 3 and J.R. Smith couldn’t get out of a typ­i­cal J.R. Smith slump. He missed all eight of his three­p­oint at­tempts and then de­scribed how poor he was play­ing with an ex­ple­tive.

James made only seven of 22 shots af­ter get­ting dou­bleteamed more than any other game in the se­ries. The Cava­liers were four for 27 from three-point range, felled by Smith’s in­ac­cu­racy and also me­dia dar­ling Dellave­dova (two for nine).

“Of­fen­sively, we were ter­ri­ble,” James said. “We just couldn’t get the long ball go­ing and that def­i­nitely hurt.”

But James wouldn’t bite on the se­ries-is-fad­ing-away feel­ing that crept into the Cleve­land arena as the War­riors rained threes and dunks af­ter two tooth­less games, their small-ball line- up cre­at­ing quite the jolt.

James wouldn’t even say th­ese were the tough­est odds he ever faced.

“Big­gest chal­lenge of my ca­reer was be­ing down 3-2 go­ing into Bos­ton,” he said of the 2012 Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals when he was with Miami. “Game 5 at Golden State is not that big when it comes to go­ing to Bos­ton and you lose mul­ti­ple times in that arena, and the fran­chise that I was with at the time had never won a play­off game in Bos­ton. Now that’s pretty chal­leng­ing.”

James guided the Heat to a seven-game victory in that se­ries and ul­ti­mately a cham­pi­onship.

Still, tak­ing Cleve­land all the way would mean so much to James, given the cir­cum­stances of his home­town re­turn and the emo­tional state of Cleve­land fans, who haven’t seen any­thing like this in the Cava­liers’ 45 years. Or the Browns’ 49 years in the Su­per Bowl era. Or the In­di­ans’ 67 years since win­ning the World Se­ries.

There is some bright­ness, be­lieve it or not: The Cava­liers get an ex­tra day of rest af­ter play­ing three games in five days. James aside, they’re play­ing a tight sev­en­man ro­ta­tion and have other bumps and bruises to soothe.

Fight­ing knee and back sore­ness much of this sea­son, James wouldn’t re­veal how many stitches he needed in his head, coyly say­ing there were “enough to close it up.”

It’s easy to di­ag­nose this se­ries, though. If James can’t quickly re­turn to coun­ter­act­ing the re­vived War­riors, the Cava­liers will be the ones closed out.

Paul Sancya As­so­ci­ated Press

L eBRON JAMES tends to his head af­ter crash­ing into a TV cam­era­man.

Tony De­jak As­so­ci­ated Press

CAVA­LIERS’ Matthew Dellave­dova was two of nine in three-point at­tempts and had 10 points in Game 4.

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