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With their season on the line, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have their backs to the wall against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is, James has been here before with the Cavaliers, seven times, in fact. James’ teams are 5-2 in those games and he’s averaging an NBA-best 33.5 points per game in 21 elimination games in his career.
That doesn’t mean he enjoys being in this situation, however. The Cavaliers need a win to force a Game 7 on Sunday night at TD Garden in Boston.
“I don’t enjoy being in a position where you lose and go home, but just try to extend the series as long as I can and just try put myself and my team in position to continue to play,” he said after shootaround Friday. “I haven’t always been successful, obviously, I haven’t won every elimination game, but I’ve had some really good games and I’ve had some sub-par games as well.”
While the Cleveland offense has struggled, specifically in the three losses in Boston, its defense has actually been good. The Cavaliers, who were rated 29th of 30 teams in the NBA in defense during the regular season, have a defensive rating of 103.3 in the playoffs, six better than the regular season, and have limited the Celtics to 42.4 percent shooting from the field.
“I love the way we defended and for the most part if you take away Game 1 and the second half of Game 2, we’ve been defending at a high clip,” James said. “We’ve been doing it throughout the playoffs though and it’s definitely given us an opportunity to be in some games.”
James said even though many, including Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, believe he was tired during Game 5 on Wednesday night, his routine has remained the same during the postseason.
“It’s the same routine for me,” James, who will play in the 99th game of his season tonight, said. “Just try to get as much optimal sleep as possible, stay in the training room getting treatment and also putting in the work as well to keep your body in tune and in rhythm.”
Which is what James’ good friend, Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets, will be doing after injuring a hamstring in the final minute of Houston’s win over Golden State in Game 5 on Thursday night, a win that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead against the defending champions in the Western Conference Finals.
“Why, cause you know I talked to him?” James responded when asked about Paul’s status for Game 6 on Saturday night at Oracle Arena. “He’ll be alright.”