The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 109-99 on Friday to force a Game 7 in the Eastern finals. Here are five reasons the Cavaliers won.
1. LeBron James’ defense. He had a signature chasedown block on Terry Rozier, and while Boston shot well from deep, James’ effort slipping into passing lanes and rotating hard was contagious.
2. LeBron James’ passing. LeBron made a point of setting up teammates early, and finished with nine assists. I mean, look at this alley-oop to Jeff Green from 30 feet out! That passing ability forces the opponent’s defense to pay attention to every other Cavalier despite the inclination to have all eyes on LeBron.
3. LeBron James’ rim attacks. LeBron got seven buckets at the rim plus racked up 11 free throws. He took nearly half his shots at the rim. A predisposition to attack the heart of the Boston defense opened up the rest of the floor for LeBron eventually.
4. LeBron James’ shooting. LeBron went 5-of-7 on three-pointers in Game 6. The rest of Cleveland’s roster went 4-of-16 from deep. With Kevin Love out much of the game with a head injury, James’ ability to stretch the floor and punish airspace was enormous.
5. LeBron James’ clutch. With 3:10 to go, Boston had closed to within seven. Cleveland’s next three plays: LeBron drives the lane and hits Larry Nance Jr. with a drop-off for a dunk, LeBron nails a 27-foot stepback three in Jayson Tatum’s grill, LeBron nails a nearly identical 27-foot stepback three in Jayson Tatum’s grill. Está hecho, amigos.
This is one of LeBron’s greatest performances ever, which is saying A LOT. This felt, in many ways, predestined: LeBron wasn’t going to let Boston win this series without going seven games. That doesn’t make it any less amazing.
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Rockets at Warriors, 9 p.m. ET, TNT
Houston leads 3-2
WNBA Schedule: Two League Pass games before the big NBA playoff match. Reminder: WNBA League Pass is $17 for the entire season.
Bad news for the Rockets, who can win a bid to the NBA Finals on Saturday: Chris Paul is out with a hamstring injury.
Paul Flannery: LeBron James in the Garden for Game 7 is what we all want to see. AMEN. I’m going to be giddy for the next 36 hours.
Paul Flannery: Brad Stevens is a genius, but not in the way you think. I try not to slip into coach worship, but Steven’s worldview and practical applications of modern psychology really are brilliant.
LeBron now has seven 40-point games in this postseason, one behind Jerry West’s record of eight. Kristian Winfield ranked the best LeBron games of these 2018 playoffs.
Bad news: the Celtics can’t win on the road in the playoffs. Good news: Boston was good enough to snag home court advantage.
No word on Kevin Love’s status going forward. He knocked skulls with Jayson Tatum. Best wishes to a speedy recovery.
Larry Nance has come through when the Cavaliers have needed him.
An argument that there is no good outcome from a Celtics Finals appearance.
Steve Kerr invoked Jordan’s 1991 playoffs to encourage Kevin Durant to move the ball on Thursday. It ... didn’t work.
Zito Madu on the ugly, beautiful Rockets-Warriors series. Hard to watch and impossible to turn away from.
I wrote about how the Warriors’ casual attitude all season might now be catching up to them.
Excellent Zach Lowe feature on Trevor Ariza, the ultimate role player who has worked incredibly hard to find the perfect NBA role.
Chris Paul’s dad on how his son deals with these awful, inopportune injuries.
Word to the Warriors for staying really positive in the face of what would be humiliating elimination. They are, dare I say, nonplussed.
Rodger Sherman asks what’s wrong with the Warriors’ late-game offense.
The great Bill Rhoden on Maverick Carter and the construction of LeBron Inc.
The Raptors are interviewing Ettore Messina and Ime Udoka for their coaching job. This is probably the single most important vacancy of the offseason. (The other option: the Bucks, who hired Mike Budenholzer, who Toronto was reportedly chasing hard.)
Good news, Lakers fans: LaVar Ball is trashing the workouts the team gave Lonzo.
Someone on Instagram claimed Kyle Korver is better than Carmelo Anthony right now, and well Carmelo Anthony disagree vociferously.
Shea Serrano ranks the games in a 7-game series. He’s wrong -- like LeBron, I think “Game 7” is the best two-word phrase in the English language -- but it’s still good.
And finally: SAM HINKIE IS BACK! Well, he’s consulting for the Denver Broncos, at least.
Be excellent to each other.