CLEVELAND - LeBron James, fresh off a 44-point performance, was asked what the Cavaliers should expect in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals in Boston on Wednesday night.
The series is tied at two games apiece. The home team has won every game. James has two of his six 40-point games in the 2018 NBA playoffs in this series. Everything, in theory, has gone according to plan heading into the game.
"We don't know what we're going to see in Game 5," James said. "Only the game gods know that. We know it's going to be a hostile environment. We know their fans are going to be very energetic, but we have to just have our same mindset we had when we came home for these two games.
"If our minds are there, we put ourselves in a position to be victorious."
We know this is a huge game for the series with a 3-2 lead on the line, and that comes with the usual excitement. The more dramatic storyline is the possibility for another signature moment from James, a playoff legacy that began in earnest when he dropped 48 points on the Pistons in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on May 31, 2007.
This marks the 15th time James will be play in a Game 5 with the series tied at 2-2 and the second in these playoffs. Of course, that first Game 5 came on April 18 against the Pacers, when James scored 44 points with 10 rebounds, eight assists and the game-winning 3-pointer in a 98-95 victory.
James' statistics in Game 5 of a 2-2 series come with some expected and unexpected results. He averages 32.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game in these situations. Between two stops in Cleveland and Miami, James' teams are 8-6 in Game 5s and 9-5 in those series.
One would expect the odds to favor James, especially when you consider he's scored 40 or more points in four of those of those Game 5 situations. He's put up two 40-point games in this year's Eastern Conference finals alone.
"It's been huge," Cavs forward Tristan Thompson said. "He's the captain of our team. When he's coming out, not just offensively firing but defensively taking the challenge and making it tough for (Jaylen) Brown, we all feed off his energy."
Where does Boston have hope? James hasn't won a Game 5 on the road in a 2-2 series since the legendary game against the Pistons in 2007. He's 2-4 on the road, with the most recent game against the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals.
He's also 0-3 against Boston when the series is knotted at 2-2, though the loss on June 5, 2012 preceded James' legendary 45-point game at Boston in Game 6.
All of that history circles back to what James said at the end of the Game 4. We don't know what we're going to see, but it's a moment we can't wait to witness.
No matter what happens, James will be the dominant story afterward.
"He's the best in the game at evaluating the court and figuring out what he wants and where he wants it," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "The thing about it is that you just have to battle. You just have to make it as hard as possible, because he's going to find a matchup that he ultimately wants."
LeBron James in Game 5s when series is tied
|May 3, 2006||First||vs. Washington||W 121-120||45||7||6|
|May 17, 2006||Second||at Detroit||W 86-84||32||5||5|
|May 31, 2007||Conf. Finals||at Detroit||W 109-107||48||9||7|
|May 14, 2008||Conf. Finals||at Boston||L 96-89||35||3||5|
|May 10, 2011||Second||vs. Boston||L 120-88||15||6||7|
|June 9, 2011||NBA Finals||vs. Dallas||L 112-103||17||10||10|
|May 22, 2012||Second||vs. Indiana||W 115-83||30||10||8|
|June 5, 2012||Conf. Finals||vs. Boston||L 94-90||30||13||2|
|May 30, 2013||Conf. Finals||vs. Indiana||W 90-79||30||8||6|
|June 16, 2013||NBA Finals||at San Antonio||L 114-104||25||6||8|
|May 12, 2015||Second||vs. Chicago||W 106-101||38||12||6|
|June 14, 2015||NBA Finals||at Golden State||L 104-91||40||14||11|
|May 25, 2016||Conf. Finals||vs. Toronto||W 116-78||23||6||8|
|April 25, 2018||First round||vs. Indiana||W 98-95||44||10||8|