Is this it for LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers? Or will King James and his Cavs defend their home court against the Boston Celtics and force a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals?
We’ll find out Friday night, when the Cavs host the Celtics in Game 6, as they’re down 3-2 in the series and looking to not only force a deciding Game 7, but return to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals.
Home court has been a deciding factor throughout this series with the host team winning every game big, including the Celtics’ 96-83 Game 5 victory in Boston on Wednesday night. The Cavs walked off the TD Garden court exhausted after that loss.
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"I had my moments," James said after Game 5, as reported by ESPN, when asked by the media if he was tired. "I think everybody at this point is tired or worn down."
Moments later he added: "I'm fine. I didn't mention fatigue, [the media] did."
Well, if King James and the Cavs are going to trigger a final game in this Eastern Conference Finals, they’re going to have to summon just enough energy to bounce back at home in “The Land” on Friday night.
Here are three keys to watch for during Game 6.
Will LeBron Get The Help He Needs?
The theme of this series has been simple — LeBron James seems to get the help he needs from his teammates at home. On the road, though, those same teammates seem to go radio silent. Take George Hill and Tristan Thompson for instance. Each scored 13 points in Cleveland’s Game 4 win, but Hill only mustered seven points and Thompson a pathetic one point in the Cavs’ Game 5 loss in Boston.
James has been averaging an absurd 30.8 points, 8.2 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game this series, but really only Kevin Love (15 points, 11 rebounds per game) has given the Cavs some supplemental consistency thereafter. That begs the question: Will the Cavs give King James the help he needs and if so, which one of his teammates will step up the most?
Can King James Limit His Turnovers?
Yes, LeBron James remains the best active player on the planet. (Don’t even try to argue it). But there’s no denying his costly turnovers during these Eastern Conference Finals. He committed six turnovers in the Cavs’ Game 5 loss, had seven in Game 4 and is averaging nearly six per game during this series against the rugged Celtics. Obviously, King James is doing it all, but with his Cavs teammates unable to step up and help him consistently, every possession counts that much more, meaning LeBron might have to cut down on his turnovers if the Cavs are going to take Game 6. That’s easier said than done, though, considering the Celtics have a young, solid team defense that can stifle James following his initial thrust to the hoop.
Can The Celtics Withstand An Aggressive Cavs' Home Start?
In the two games — Games 3 and 4 — that the Cavs have won this series, they have jumped out to huge leads in the first quarter behind a raucous Cleveland fan base cheering them on. On the brink of elimination, there’s no reason to think that King James and his Cavs won’t come out ultra aggressive in the first quarter Friday night. And if they do just that, as expected, will the Celtics be able to withstand that strong charge against them on the road?
They weren’t able to in Games 3 and 4, falling behind by 15 points and 16 points, respectively, after the first quarter of each of those contests. The hardest thing for a team to do — especially a young squad — is clinch a playoff series. Being able to withstand the Cavs’ initial run, or better yet build one of its own, in the first quarter of Game 6 might be the difference Boston needs to get that elusive road win in these Eastern Conference Finals and close out the series. Celtics point guard Terry Rozier was quiet with eight points in Game 5. Perhaps he could help the Celtics change their first quarter road narrative against the Cavs in Cleveland.