The Celtics opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter and nursed it the rest of the way, holding on through a four-minute scoring drought that saw Cleveland score nine straight points to cut the deficit to 83-71. Then LeBron took over.
If he was, it didn't last.
James exploded for 46 points on top of 11 rebounds and 9 assists as the Cavaliers lived another day by downing the Boston Celtics, 109-99, in Game 6 on Friday, May 25 (Saturday, May 26 in Manila) to tie the best-of-7 series at 3-3.
But this was no real surprise. In his previous elimination game, a month ago here against IN, he had 45 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Here there were extenuating circumstances.
George Hill enjoyed his best game of the series for the Cavaliers with 20 points, while reserve Jeff Green chipped in 14 and Larry Nance Jr hit for 10 points.
While the pressure is certainly on LeBron James to get his team the win, he's taking it all in stride. He had seen to that. "But I think everybody at this point is exhausted or worn down or whatever the case may be", he said.
Unfortunately, there was a nasty clash of heads between Jayson Tatum and Kevin Love, which sent the Cavs power forward to the locker room. "I thought we would play better but we didn't".
"We've got to be focused, composed and play with a lot of poise and we'll be fine", he said, clearly up for the challenge.
"Big shots, playing through being exhausted and fatigue. We needed him to be big, and he was big".
Whether it was his two dagger threes late in the fourth quarter or a handful of other plays, James (somehow) continues to impress all of us.
Every game there has turned into a sequel of Honey I Shrunk the Cavs, the veteran visitors unexplainably overmatched by the moment.
'CSK handled moments of pressure better' - Williamson
Remarkably, it took Watson 11 balls to get off the mark, but after that he belted 11 fours and eight sixes in the monster knock. The veteran off-spinner didn't get a chance to bowl in the previous match and was sidelined for the crucial final .
"Baynes does all the dirty work", Jaylen Brown said. "No body movement, no ball movement ... just the traps we fall into".
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email. Whoever has grabbed the most rebounds has won the game so far this series and that trend continued Friday night. James averages 34.5 points in game sevens during his career.
Regardless of outcome, Sunday night will stand as another significant chapter in the history of LeBron James, one which has become simultaneous with that of the sport at large.
LeBron James had eaten their lunch and belched in their general direction.
" obviously a tremendous individual player", Brad Stevens said of James after the game. "Special game tonight. Special night in Game 4".
Or enough bad things about what James has done to his team - and could again tomorrow evening.
"But it's not what our team is built on right now", he said.
"I took it upon myself to put myself in positions where I could be more aggressive", said Hill, who also had 12 points in the third quarter and finished 7-for-12 from the field and 6-for-6 at the line.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Horford, Smart). "From the amount of minutes, the amount of years, the amount of fouls he's got on his body, what he does night in, night out is something remarkable". However, this game was also somewhat personal, as James took on the Celtics during the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 while playing for the Miami Heat.
He was asked how he finds the booster rocket for nights such as this. "Until we're dead in our grave", Lue said, "it's not over". "I have a love of the game". He also handles Tristan Thompson better than anyone else on the team, which is a little unusual. Does it always (end up with) me playing great? He'll now head to the NBA Finals for an incredible eighth straight season.
"It's tough, Kevin wanted to play, to be in a Game 7 situation like this in the Eastern Conference finals, being an All-Star, being our second-best player, and he just wasn't able to go".