James is determined to eliminate doubts
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — If the Cleveland Cavaliers need their leader to play every second of Game 6 tonight in Boston, LeBron James is ready.
“I’m going to try to use as much energy as I can,’’ James said. “If I have to play 48 minutes, then so be it. I better get a good night’s rest.’’
After one of the worst playoff efforts of his career in Tuesday’s 120-88 home defeat, James knows another bad showing from him will likely result in the Celtics ending Cleveland’s title bid in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“I’m the leader and they’re supposed to follow me,’’ James said. “At the same time, other guys got to be aggressive, too.’’
Recent history is not on Cleveland’s side.
With James, the Cavaliers are 0-3 in elimination road playoff games.
They lost at Detroit in Game 7 in 2006, at Boston in Game 7 in 2008, and at Orlando last season in Game 6.
However, James said Cleveland fans should count on the Cavaliers to force a Game 7 Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
“Uh, cause they got me,’’ said the two-time MVP.
With James scoring just 15 points and shooting a bleak 3 of 14 from the field Tuesday, the first explanation for why he shot so poorly starts with his injured right elbow.
After yesterday’s practice, though, James didn’t wear a sleeve on it during a 3-point shooting competition with Anthony Parker, Danny Green, and Daniel Gibson.
“I got a handicap sticker on,’’ James playfully shouted during the competition.
“I’m all right,’’ he said later. “The elbow, it’s an issue I’ll deal with in the offseason. Right now is not the time to panic.’’
James doesn’t even think he had a bad game Tuesday, outside of shooting poorly. He hit 9 of 12 free throws and had 6 rebounds and 7 assists.
“I’m never disappointed in my play,’’ James said. “I mean, I feel like I could do more, but I’m not disappointed at all.’’
Even though the Cavaliers suffered the worst home playoff loss in team history and team owner Daniel Gilbert expressed disappointment in their play, James said everyone should relax.
However, four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal, who hasn’t lived even a year in Cleveland, understands why people are concerned.
“Forty-six years is a long time,’’ said O’Neal, referring to the last time Cleveland won a professional championship, with the Browns in 1964. “Back in the day when they had Brad Daugherty and Mark Price, [the Cavaliers] almost had a chance.
“This is the team that when you look at it, you say, ‘This is our time.’ ’’
Cleveland coach Mike Brown has received heavy criticism, something O’Neal said isn’t fair.
“It’s our jobs to make everybody look good,’’ O’Neal said.
James, asked if he thought Brown had been outcoached by the Celtics’ Doc Rivers, said the media won’t divide the team.
“As players, we can control what we want to control, and right now, the most important thing is Game 6,’’ James said.