Since LeBron James returned to Cleveland, the Cavs have scoffed at the importance of playoff seeding and the importance of the home-court advantage.
The belief seems to be that LeBron is his own home-court advantage.
He’s now going have another chance to prove it.
The Eastern Conference finals is now down to a best-of-three, and two of the three will not be played in Cleveland, where the Cavs are 2-0. Two of the three WILL be played in Boston — where the Cavs are 0-2.
“It’s a best two out of three to go to the NBA finals. It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Boston coach Brad Stevens, who despite a
111-102 loss in Game 4 Wednesday night, still likes his team’s chances.
Boston has the home-court advantage the rest of the way, but the Cavs have LeBron. Which would YOU rather have?
LeBron only had three assists, five rebounds and an alarming seven turnovers. But almost all of that was wiped out by another 40-point game. He poured in 44 points — and so did the Cavs other four starters combined.
He’ll need more of the same — the points, not that turnovers — Wednesday night in Boston for the Cavs to steal a win that could give them the chance to win the Eastern Conference in Game 6 at the Q on Friday.
But beating Boston in Boston is hard.
In the playoffs this year the Celtics are 9-0 at home and 1-6 on the road. The Cavs are 7-1 at home and 3-4 on the road.
The first three games of the series were all blowouts, and the Cavs tried to make it four-for-four when they raced off to a 19-point lead in the first half. That was the half in which Kyle Korver had twice as many blocked shots as LeBron (it was 2-0). So, yes, the role players showed up again.
But the Celtics are the Celtics. They play with the same kind of feistiness the Cavs saw from the Pacers, who took the Cavs to a seventh game in the first round.
Don’t be surprised if that’s where the Cavs and Celtics are headed — to a seventh game that would be played Sunday in Boston where — all together now — the Celtics are 9-0 in the playoffs and the Cavs are 0-2.
But fifth things first, and that’s Game 5 Wednesday, where the raucous Garden crowd, whose intensity brings out the feeding-frenzy side of the Celtics, will come down heavy on the Cavs.
“We’ll have to keep playing with more speed and pace, and take care of the basketball,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue.
Monday night the Cavs almost rode the turnover donkey into a 3-1 series deficit. The Cavs turned the ball over a whopping 19 times to a hard-as-nails opponent, but still managed to win by nine.
That won’t be the case Wednesday night in Boston. Nineteen turnovers in Game 5 will be a one-way ticket to Palookaville for LeBron and The Role Players.
“Turnovers have been killing us in this series, because they allow (Boston) to get easy baskets,” Lue said.
Other than the horrific turnover total, the Cavs otherwise were close to the best version of themselves in Game 4. LeBron spent large chunks of the evening maneuvering his way off screens that left Cleveland native “Scary” Terry Rozier, a 6-foor-2 point guard, one-on-one with the King. It only looked like one-on-none.
LeBron, a 6-8 block of granite, repeatedly backed Rozier into the paint and then launched his suddenly lethal fadeaway jumper.
“He knows what he wants, and how to get it,” said Stevens.
The Cavs, who led 32-17 after the first quarter in Game 3, led 34-18 after the first quarter in Game 4.
The lead ballooned to 19, and a big reason was Tristan Thompson, who for the second consecutive game outplayed Boston center Al Horford. Thompson had 13 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
Where was this Tristan Thompson during the regular season?
Doesn’t matter now. If Thompson brings it like that again in Boston, maybe the Cavs really can steal Game 5.
Korver, who for most of the series has been the one Cavs player who consistently plays like he knows what’s at stake, had another Korveriffic performance, throwing in 14 points and adding four rebounds, and three — count ’em three! — blocked shots, while spending much of the evening diving across the floor for loose balls.
Kevin Love showed up at times (11 rebounds) and was invisible at others (nine points, five fouls and six turnovers).
So now it’s back to Boston for the most important game of the year for two teams that are each two wins away from the NBA Finals.
“It’s a blast,” said Stevens. “It’s grit your teeth, get up and go after them again.”
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