LeBron James is one loss away from failing to make his eighth straight NBA Finals after Wednesday’s 96-83 defeat to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and he admitted he felt tired at times during the contest.
"I had my moments," he said when discussing whether he was tired, per NBA TV. "But I think everybody at this point is tired."
James still notched a double-double of 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but there were times in the game when he looked exhausted:
The four-time MVP was probably tired because he was carrying a team in comeback mode throughout the evening after Boston built a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Kevin Love (14 points) was the only other Cavaliers player to score in double figures, as the supporting cast that was so formidable in the two wins in Cleveland went missing in action Wednesday.
That put the onus on James to force the issue against a Boston team that led the league in defensive rating during the regular season, per NBA.com.
Not even James is going to beat that defense by himself, and it showed, as the Celtics took a 3-2 lead in the series and improved their home record to a perfect 10-0 in the postseason despite playing without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
The good news for Cleveland is Friday's Game 6 is back in Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs handled Boston with relative ease in the last two contests. The Celtics are an ugly 1-6 away from TD Garden in these playoffs, and a win in Cleveland would put the Cavaliers in a position where they have the best player on the floor for a decisive Game 7.
That is a formula for success, even if James did appear fatigued during Wednesday's contest.