LeBron James warns of pitfalls of closeout games: ‘Always the hardest’
The Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night can put the finishing touches on their march through the Eastern Conference with a Game 5 win over the Boston Celtics. But LeBron James took time to warn everyone, presumably his teammates, that closeout games are among the most difficult to win the postseason.
“The closeout game is always the hardest, and Boston is going to make it even harder,” James said ahead of Game 5 at TD Garden.
The Cavaliers stormed out to a 2-0 series lead over the Celtics, who seemed dead in the water after Isaiah Thomas was lost for the rest of the postseason with an injured hip.
But the Celtics shocked the Cavaliers in Game 3, winning 111-108 in the hostile Quicken Loans Arena. James arguably had one of the worst performances in his storied postseason career — 11 points on a 4-of-13 shooting night to go along with six rebounds, six assists and a troublesome six turnovers — prompting a Cavaliers teammate to challenge him ahead of Game 4.
Either way, James responded in a big way in Game 4. While Kyrie Irving led the charge with a game-high 42 points, James added 34 points, five rebounds and six assists in the 112-99 victory.
Now, with a Game 5 on the horizon, James said the onus is on the Cavs to close out the surprisingly pesky Celtics.
“We have to go in with a bunker mentality that we had in Game 1 and Game 2, to go out and do what we do, but we have to defend,” James said. “We have to execute offensively. We have to have low turnovers, and we have to try to make them miss because some of those guys play a lot better at home. That’s just how the game be played.”
The Cavaliers of course have three games in which to dispatch the Celtics and punch their ticket to a third straight showdown with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. But with every game comes added pressure. The team would be best advised to close the Celtics out Thursday night. But as James said, it won’t be easy.
[Pro Basketball Talk]