Well, this could be it on a few different fronts.
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: CelticsBlog
Cavs injuries: None
Celtics injuries: Kyrie Irving (OUT — knee surgery), Gordon Hayward, (OUT — ankle fracture), Shane Larkin (OUT — shoulder), Daniel Theis (OUT — knee)
Three keys to the game
- The Cavaliers’ role players have to show up if Cleveland is going to extend that series. Not only does Kyle Korver need to play even if Semi Ojeleye doesn’t, but he needs to be better than 2-6 from the field. George Hill needs to be better than 1-5. And J.R. Smith needs to be better than 1-6 and better than 0-4 on three-pointers. If those three — and Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. and Jeff Green and Jordan Clarkson — don’t play well, LeBron James will have to do everything. That’s not great, Bob.
- It remains to be seen if Tyronn Lue has any adjustments to Aron Baynes starting for the Celtics and Boston shrinking down its rotation. Assuming he sticks to starting Thompson, and basically always playing one of either Thompson or Nance, an obvious adjustment would be to go back to hunting Terry Rozier. Even if Boston scrams and does when it can to rotate away those screens, Cleveland can still take advantage with better passing and general basketball awareness than it did in Game 5.
- How much does LeBron James really have to give? He played down concerns of fatigue after Game 5, but his numbers have dropped off as the game goes on so far in the conference finals. For Cleveland to win, they are going to need a fresh LeBron leading everyone else on the floor. If he’s not full of energy, and Boston actually plays well on the road, this could get ugly. For what it’s worth, Lue seems confident in LeBron: “If I had to pick one guy and choose one guy to prevail, it would be LeBron,” Lue said Thursday on a conference call with the media. “I know he’ll be great come tomorrow, and then after that we’ll see.”
Kyle Korver vs. Jaylen Brown as gone differently almost every game so far in this series. Last game, Brown was much more aggressive and attacked, while Korver didn’t make much of an impact. If Korver can get back to playing tight defense in his minutes on Brown while stretching out the Celtics defense with shooting, thus tipping that matchup more in the Cavs’ favor, the Cavs will have a much better chance of winner. Smith’s matchup with Jayson Tatum needs to play out much of the same way as well, and ditto for Thompson/Nance Jr. on Al Horford.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
LeBron can’t lose a potential series-ending game at home, right? Cavs 111, Celtics 104. But who really knows.