Cavs aim to close out Celtics, move on

Sam Amico

Ah, yes. The closeout game. It's never difficult, is it, LeBron James?

"The closeout game is always the hardest, and Boston is going to make it even harder," James told the media.

Oh. Well then. Now that we got that out of the way, let's get down to some facts.

James and his Cavaliers hold a 3-1 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. Game 5 is Thursday at Boston (8:30 p.m., TNT).

The Cavs know all about blown 3-1 series leads. No, not their own. They actually were the ones to overcome it -- becoming the first team in NBA Finals history to do so, overtaking the Golden State Warriors last season.

But they know it can go both ways. They know Boston has the home-court advantage (well, sort of).

Let's put it this way. If the Cavs were to lose each of the next two, the Celtics would get Game 7 on their own home floor.

Now, nobody is predicting that. The Celtics are without star guard Isaiah Thomas and the Cavs are huge favorites. If not for this game, then at least the series.

But a series ain't over until it's over. Ask the Warriors. Ask the Cavs. Ask anyone.

JUST ONE VICTORY

Here's the bad news for the Celtics: Last time a playoff game took place in their building (Game 2), the Cavs won by 44 points.

Then again, the Celtics proved in Game 3 in Cleveland that every game is its own animal. So the Cavs will need to remember how they won Games 1 and 2 on the road.

What does that entail?

“We have to go in with a bunker mentality that we had in Game 1 and Game 2, to go out and do what we do," James said. “But we have to defend. We have to execute offensively. We have to have low turnovers, and we have to try to make them miss because some of those guys play a lot better at home. That’s just how the game is played.”

With the Finals starting a week from Thursday (June 1), and the Warriors sitting and waiting for their next opponent, the last thing the Cavs wanted to hear were the words "Game 5." They went home up 2-0 and expected to end the series.

That may have been part of the problem. You can't just expect things in the conference finals. You have to go out and take control, grab the game by the neck and put it away.

The Cavs understand that now. They know they're in for a battle. And know they know it. They know that before the Warriors, they must finish the Celtics.

"They got a lot of tough guys that are going to compete," said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, "so they’re making us compete, which is good for us.”

NOTEBOOK

The Cavs have scored at least 100 points in all 12 playoff games. ... In other words, they will tell you their one playoff loss came because they took the night off defensively. ... Per Cavs.com: "Since 2009, Cleveland has won each of its last 12 potential series-clinching playoff games, matching the longest such streak in NBA history (L.A. Lakers from 2000 to 2004)." ... Kyrie Irving is coming off a career playoff-high 42 points. ... Kevin Love is coming off a career playoff-high 17 rebounds. ... James is 31-9 all-time in closeout games, including 9-0 during his second stint with the Cavs. ... The Cavs will don their navy blue jerseys.

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