WASHINGTON: LeBron James tallied 23 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved within one victory of reaching the NBA finals with a 116-78 blowout home triumph over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
James, who is seeking his sixth straight appearance in the NBA championship series, also had six rebounds and eight assists for the Cavaliers, who lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals three games to two.
“I am a very experienced player. I’ve been here a long time,” James said. “I was able to be very calm these last 48 hours understanding that it is a big game.
“I’ve been in some pressure situations before and I wanted to have that confidence around these guys who have never been in that situation before, and it paid off.”
Kyrie Irving added 23 points in the Cavaliers’ most lopsided playoff victory in franchise history, eclipsing their 31-point victory at home in the series opener.
Game six is Friday in Toronto. The Raptors must win or else Cleveland will advance to next month’s NBA finals to face either the Oklahoma City Thunder or defending champion Golden State Warriors.
The Cavaliers delivered a stunning blow on Wednesday by flipping the script on the Raptors, who won back-to-back home games to level the series 2-2.
Faith in Love
Cleveland’s faith was also restored in forward Kevin Love, who scored a team-high 25 points on eight-of-10 shooting after making just five-of-23 in the two losses in Toronto.
“We had our aggression today from the start. It started with Kevin and we followed his lead,” James said. “He is a big reason why we were able to play as well as we did today.
“When Kevin is aggressive like we saw then we want to keep giving him the ball. He was spectacular.”
Cleveland have outscored the Raptors by 88 points in their three home games.
James thinks the Cavaliers can land another knockout punch on Friday, but there is no margin for error when they face the Raptors on Canadian soil.
“It is going to be extremely difficult,” he said of game six. “Playing in that beast of an arena, we’ve got to be composed and we got to be tough.”
The contest was all but over after the first quarter, when Cleveland’s 37 points were the most they’ve scored in any quarter in this series.
Toronto trailed by 18 after one period, and they didn’t pass 37 points until the early stages of the third quarter.
The Raptors’ 65-34 halftime deficit was the first time in franchise history they trailed by at least 30 points in any game, regular season or playoffs.
Kyle Lowry had 13 points and six assists, and DeMar DeRozan scored 14 points for the Raptors after they totalled 67 points in Toronto’s game four win at home. The backcourt partners shot a combined seven-for-20 in game five.
James said containing those two was crucial.
“You have got to keep two guys in front of them all the time. Make them see four hands and keep them off the free throw line,” he said.