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Can Cavaliers Earn NBA Finals Bid with Game 5 Victory?
Celtics vs. Cavs Game 5 betting advice
It's truly amazing how much the Cleveland Cavaliers need LeBron James.
On some level, this feels like a "duh" statement. But he's 32 years old and 14 seasons deep into his career. He's surrounded by two younger stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, both of whom are having solid, if spectacular postseason campaigns. He shouldn't need to be the end-all, be-all for the Cavaliers.
And yet, he is, in a big way. We saw it in their Game 3 loss to the Boston Celtics, when he shot 4-of-13 from the floor and was basically a non-factor on the offensive end over the final 15 minutes of the game. Then we saw it again in Game 4, when he got into foul trouble during the first half. Though Irving was spectacular essentially the entire night, the Cavaliers weren't able to pull away until James detonated in the second half.
(As an aside, Richard Jefferson says James was suffering from a bug in Game 3, which would seem to explain his lackluster performance. If he's fully healthy and ready to rock now, this would seem to suggest the Celtics are in trouble.)
Relying on James isn't a bad thing. He's the absolute best player in the game—maybe the best player ever. You have to depend on him. But the degree to which the Cavaliers do is alarming at points.
Consider this series, one in which they've basically dominated.
In the 158 minutes LeBron has spent on the court, the Cavaliers have outscored the Celtics by 71 points, according to NBA.com. In the 34 minute he has spent on the sidelines, though, they have been outscored by four points. That's not okay.
Four points doesn't seem like a lot, but LeBron, contrary to popular belief, does need some rest. And he's never going to get it so long as he's the only player the Cavaliers cannot tread water without. If the Celtics somehow jump out to an early lead once again, all hope of playing him less than 45 minutes goes out the window.
And there's a chance the Celtics make life difficult on the Cavaliers. They have made sensational adjustments since Game 2, particularly on the defensive end, where head coach Brad Stevens has no desire to trot out the same matchup on James for more than a couple of possessions. It's a smart approach, and borderline effective.
If they can shoot better than 32.1 percent from beyond arc (10-of-31 in Game 4) while ensuring they don't get beaten by 15 or more points in a given quarter, this thing should be close. They're at home, in front of their home crowd, facing elimination. We should expect some fight, even if, as everyone expects, they don't win.
Plus, given the Cavaliers' dependence on James, a 10-point spread feels too large even if you expect them to win.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (+10)
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