Pres­sure build­ing with the wan­ing of time

James needs more as­sis­tance from his team­mates if Cava­liers want to be great.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike Bres­na­han

SAN FRAN­CISCO — Too much was at stake for the Cleve­land Cava­liers. The strain fi­nally started show­ing.

LeBron James was a lit­tle too an­gry over a mean­ing­less non-call in the fi­nal minute of their Game 5 loss Sun­day night. Cava­liers Coach David Blatt was a tad de­fen­sive while de­scrib­ing why he ditched cen­ter Ti­mofey Moz­gov in fa­vor of a small­ball lineup against the Golden State War­riors.

On top of it, James felt the need to pro­claim him­self “The best player in the world,” in case there was any doubt about some­one av­er­ag­ing 36.6 points, 12.4 re­bounds and 8.8 as­sists while pos­si­bly be­com­ing the first NBA Fi­nals most valu­able player from the los­ing team since Jerry West with the Lak­ers in 1969.

This is what hap­pens when the pres­sure builds within a city that has never claimed a Cava­liers champi-

on­ship or Su­per Bowl vic­tory. This is what un­folds when a fran­chise fi­nally gets it right — Hello, Kyrie! Welcome, Kevin! — af­ter so much push and pull over the years (LeBron gets drafted, LeBron be­comes a star, LeBron leaves, LeBron wins two cham­pi­onships else­where, LeBron re­turns home).

The Cava­liers are run­ning out of time to do some­thing spe­cial. Game 6 is Tues­day in Cleve­land. James needs a lot more as­sis­tance if there is to be a Game 7.

“I want to do what­ever it takes to help our team win, and I haven’t been able to do that the last two,” James said Sun­day af­ter the War­riors’ 104-91 vic­tory. “So hope­fully I can do a bet­ter job com­ing in on Tues­day. We all as a unit can do a bet­ter job, and we’ll be fine.” But who will help him? Matthew Dellave­dova? Old news. Hasn’t done much of any­thing since Game 3.

J.R. Smith? Score­less in the sec­ond half of Game 5.

Shawn Mar­ion? The player known as “The Ma­trix” has dis­ap­peared into the abyss, to­tal­ing 25 play­off min­utes, and none in the Fi­nals.

Moz­gov? Per­haps. If he can even see the court. He was the big­gest loser in the three-day stretch from Game 4 (28 points, 10 re­bounds) to Game 5 (no points, no re­bounds, nine min­utes).

Blatt docked Moz­gov’s play­ing time to match the War­riors’ small-ball mantra and then got ex­as­per­ated af- ter field­ing six ques­tions from re­porters about it.

“Did I make a mis­take? Lis­ten, when you’re coach­ing a game, you’ve got to make de­ci­sions,” Blatt said. “I felt the best chance for us to stay in the game and to have a chance to win was to play it the way that we played it. It’s no dis­re­spect to any­one, cer­tainly not to ‘Timo,’ who has done a great job for us.”

For all the Cava­liers’ foi- bles the last two games, they ac­tu­ally did a nice job stay­ing close un­til the fourth quar­ter.

In Game 5, James hit a 34foot three-pointer with 7:47 re­main­ing, the Cava­liers led by one and War­riors fans squirmed in their seats. But then Golden State fin­ished with a 25-11 push, fu­eled by A) long threes from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and B) the dis­ap­pear­ance of any­one not named James (six points down the stretch) or Tris­tan Thompson (five points in the fi­nal five-plus min­utes).

Game 4 was even more one-sided in the fourth quar­ter, the War­riors outscor­ing Cleve­land, 27-12, as James went score­less and the Cava­liers missed 16 of 18 shots.

The War­riors are keep­ing it in check even though the Bay Area is ready to burst with its first NBA ti­tle since 1975.

City Hall in Oak­land has been lit up in blue and gold lights for weeks. San Fran­cisco, not to be out­done, has bathed part of its city in War­riors shades, be it the iconic Coit Tower or a col­lec­tion of spir­ited build­ings along the Em­bar­cadero.

Just don’t re­mind the War­riors that they’re very much like Cleve­land. A lot is rid­ing on Game 6.

“In the locker room, if you walked in there it was the ex­act same af­ter a reg­u­lar-sea­son win,” Curry said af­ter scor­ing 37 points in Game 5. “But we know the sense of ur­gency of the mo­ment.”

Ben Mar­got As­so­ci­ated Press

TI­MOFEY MOZ­GOV, right, had no points in nine min­utes in Game 5 of the NBA Fi­nals.

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