OAKLAND –- It would be difficult for LeBron James to improve upon his performance in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday at Oracle Arena.
The 30-year-old, who labeled himself as the “best player in the world” in his postgame press conference, scored 40 points, corralled 14 rebounds and dished out 11 assists for Cleveland. In some moments it looked like James might single-handedly will the Cavs to victory, especially after a 34-foot three-pointer with less than eight minutes to go in the game that gave his team an 80-79 edge.
In the end it wasn’t enough as the Warriors pulled away late, winning 104-91, and are now just one win away from a championship.
James said he could do even more.
“I don’t put a ceiling on what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I know I’m shouldering a lot of the burden, but it is what it is.”
In the first half, though, James wasn’t the only reason that the Cavs were matching the Warriors basket-for-basket. Sure, at one point Cleveland had 15 straight conversions that were either made or assisted by James, but other guys were hitting shots that they weren’t making later.
That was especially true of J.R. Smith, who had 14 points in the first half but none in the second.
“I don’t know what happened with him,” James said. “He came out aggressive, which we wanted him to do. We kept finding him. He started off well, he just cooled down.”
Smith said that he had the “same mindset” in second half that he had in the first, but “just didn’t get any good looks.”
There were some suggestions and hints before Game 5 that Cavs coach David Blatt might go further down his bench in order to try and cope with the Warriors’ edge in depth. That didn’t happen, as Cleveland played just eight guys. Other than Smith’s 14 points, the Cavs had just three more points from their bench – a 3-pointer by Mike Miller.
Shawn Marion remained seated, and the 37-year-old veteran has yet to play in the series.
“Shawn’s a tremendous guy and a terrific player,” Blatt said. “That’s just a professional decision, that’s all.”
Blatt is quickly running out of options as the series progresses. He’ll need the same kind of performance, if not more, from James on Tuesday to give his club a chance to bring the series back to Oakland for a decisive Game 7.
“LeBron has been tremendous is an understatement for how he’s played in this series,” Blatt said. “Under the current set of circumstances, that’s what we’ve got to get, and he’s bringing it.”
Iman Shumpert said: “[James] can always do more. We can all always do more. This isn’t something where we think we’re not capable of beating the Warriors.
James and his teammates will all have to be better than they were the last time they were at home in Game 4, a 21-point win for the Warriors that seems to have turned the series.
“We have to understand why we weren’t good in Game 4,” James said. “We had a lack of energy. We had a lack of effort in a lot of areas in Game 4, and we can’t repeat that or they’ll raise the trophy, for sure.”