The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t expect Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to be a must-win situation. There are probably a few players on the roster who thought the series would be over in four games. The best laid plans don’t always come to fruition.
LeBron James & Co. were enormous favorites and did what was necessary. They ripped out Toronto’s heart early and spent the rest of the night stomping on it to spill any remaining blood.
While belief the Raptors could pull off a historic upset never really materialized, the Cavs’ backs were up against the wall. Losing Wednesday night would have put them in a win-or-go-home situation in hostile territory. Luckily, they are led by a man who is comfortable in this position.
“I’ve been a part of some really adverse situations and I just didn’t believe this was one of them,” James said postgame. “I’ve just been very calm about the whole situation. Our guys knew what we did and what we didn’t accomplish in Toronto. I’m not taking away from the fact of how big a game this was, because it is. It’s Game 5 on our home floor, series tied 2-2, but from the very moment we lost Game 4 I was just very calm about the whole situation.”
In a sports world where the most minor of slights is seen as disrespect and bulletin board material, James comments are refreshing. The Raptors may see it as evidence he’s not taking them seriously as an opponent and being cocky. The larger public will surely do mental gymnastics to use the words against the superstar because nothing he does will ever be good enough.
But, so what? What he said is the truth.
James led a ragtag Cavs team to the NBA Finals in 2007. His Heat team was seconds away from elimination in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. He almost beat the Warriors singlehandedly last summer.
Despite showing surprising heart north of the border, this Toronto team is not a formidable challenger. Especially when compared to other teams James has faced on the march to his six previous Finals.
He had — and has — every reason to be calm. He also has every reason to be cocksure. The Raptors are a manageable speed bump and his tranquility comes from knowing he has a full complement of supporting stars. James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all scored at least 23 points in Game 5. The offense looks to have found a rhythm.
There’s little to suggest the Raptors will win the next two games, no matter how much extra incentive they can glean from James’ statement.