To get there, they will have to be the first team to dethrone the Boston Celtics at home, where they are 10-0 these Playoffs.
Before Game Seven tips off, a look at the decisions and adjustments each team is facing.
Life without Love
Kevin Love exited Game 6 just five minutes into the action after colliding head-to-head with Jayson Tatum. With Love ruled out for Game 7, expect Boston to go back to starting Marcus Morris over Aron Baynes.
After Boston was a +12 in Games 5 and 6 when Baynes/Al Horford shared the floor with Love/Tristan Thompson, they were outscored by eight points in the six minutes the duo shared the floor with Thompson and Jeff Green.
This led to Brad Stevens pulling the plug quickly on Baynes quickly in the second half, playing him only three minutes and not again until garbage time.
Part of the reason Baynes remained anchored to the bench is his struggles to guard the athletic Larry Nance Jr. Baynes and Nance have shared the floor for 40 minutes in the series and the Celtics are a whopping -19.
With Nance playing the final 13 minutes of Game 6, Boston exhumed Greg Monroe rather than going back to Baynes.
From Cleveland’s perspective, Love’s absence also throws a wrench in the plans. In the first half, this meant playing Green 15 consecutive minutes and 17 of the final 19. But Ty Lue was forced to open the 4th quarter with a lineup of Nance-LeBron James-Kyle Korver-JR Smith-Jordan Clarkson that had shared the floor for just 14 minutes this year — all in the regular season.
The Cavs have to be wary playing Green and Thompson together. Despite them going +5 in 16 shared minutes in Game 6, the results have been ghastly throughout the playoffs.
Cleveland could consider starting Korver instead of Green to improve spacing, but that lineup has only played 10 minutes together in the Regular Season and Playoffs combined (+8).
In addition, that would leave Korver guarding Jaylen Brown — a matchup Cleveland has tried to avoid. Brown has 45 points on 17-36 shooting (61 percent more than his per 100 possessions average). Boston has a 110 offensive rating in these minutes.
Shooting from Deep
Another potential pitfall of the Thompson-Green combo is the lack of shooting it leaves Cleveland on the floor. The Cavs have just a 104.7 oRTG in the 128 minutes the duo has shared the floor in the Playoffs — largely due to horrendous 30.3 percent shooting from three.
Cleveland finished Game 6 with just 22 percent of its shots coming from downtown — a rate that ranked in the eighth percentile for any single game this season.
In the minutes Thompson and Green shared the floor, the Cavs attempted just 15.4 three-pointers per 36 minutes — a rate that would have finished dead-last in the Regular Season.
In fact, Game 6 was the first one in the series where the team that shot better from three did not win.
This does not bode well for a team that has shot just 25.3 percent from deep in TD Garden — including an abysmal 0-11 from J.R. Smith.
Both teams in the series have created better looks on their respective home courts and the ability to knock down open looks (defender 4-6 feet away) has been critical to success.
Cleveland will have to find a way to create better looks from downtown to pull off a victory in Game 7.
Road George Hill
George Hill posted a series high (for him) 10 drives in Game 6. He shot 4-4 and got to the line once, scoring 10 points. He’s averaged just four drives per game in Boston, scoring a total of just nine points on 2-4 shooting (3-4 from the line)
In the series, Hill is averaging 15.3 points per game on 53.1 percent shooting at home but just 5 points per game on 30.8 percent shooting in Boston.
One explanation for this deficiency is a drop in usage rate as Cleveland has increased its matchup-hunting tendencies away from Quicken Loans Arena. Hill has a 16.7 percent usage rate at home (fifth on the Cavs) and a 9.8 percent usage rate on the road in the series (ninth on the Cavs).
In fact, Hill’s decline in usage rate on the road is the highest on the Cavaliers in the series.
Hill posted a 22.1 percent usage rate in Game 6 — his highest of the Playoffs — en route to scoring an efficient 20 points on 15 shooting possessions. He was 3-3 at the rim, 2-3 from floater range and 2-3 on midrange jumpers.
The Cavs have scored 1.12 points per possession when Hill is the ballhandler in pick and roll — a mark that ranks 2nd in the Playoffs behind only Kyle Lowry. But the frequency of these plays has significantly decreased on the road.
In the three home games against Boston, Cleveland has scored 1.09 points per play on 7.7 Hill pick and rolls per game. In Boston, that number drops to 0.92 points per play on just 4.3 Hill pick and rolls per game.
Putting the ball back in Hill’s hands — especially if Love misses the game — will be critical in giving LeBron his “Robin” in TD Garden.
The ups and downs of Marcus Smart
There may be no better way to predict the outcome of a Celtics Playoff game than looking at Marcus Smart’s plus/minus. Boston is 8-0 when he has a positive plus/minus and 1-5 when he posts a negative plus/minus (the lone win coming in Game 3 vs Philadelphia when Smart was -7).
That trend has continued so far this series. Boston has a 117.6 oRTG and 87.9 dRTG with Smart on the floor in its three wins but a 107.4 oRTG and 118.6 dRTG with him on in its three losses.
Smart is shooting 5-14 from downtown at home but just 2-13 from three on the road in the series.
Boston has found success putting Smart on Tristan Thompson — who has more turnovers (two) than field goals made (one) in the matchup. Cleveland has just a 96.8 oRTG on the possessions Smart has guarded Thompson.
Cleveland will certainly live with Smart taking jump shots whether they’re going in or not, but limiting the impact he’s able to have on the defensive end will go a long way towards the Cavs taking Game 7.
LeBron James in Game 7
LeBron James is 5-2 in Game Sevens in his career — including five consecutive victories since 2012. In these games, he has averaged 34.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.9 blocks per game while playing 45 minutes per game.
After a masterful 44 point performance in Game Six, James is averaging 33.3 points, 8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game in the series on 53 percent shooting (42 percent from three).
But even James has had his struggles in TD Garden thus far. He is averaging just 27.7 points on 47.8 percent shooting (27.3 percent from three) and an unsightly 6.3 turnovers per game on the road in the series.
Cleveland made an effort to attack Jayson Tatum defensively in Game Six — a matchup where James has found all kinds of success. James has 27 points (105.6 points per 100 possessions better than his season average) on 11-13 shooting (164.6 percent more shot attempts per 100 possessions than his season average) on the 19 possessions Tatum has defended him in the series.
Targeting Tatum defensively allowed Cleveland to exploit a matchup the Celtics will not kickout switch — unlike when Terry Rozier is tasked with checking James on a switch.
Ultimately, James is just one game away from a trip to his eighth consecutive NBA Finals. And with Houston just one win away from dethroning Golden State in the West, James likely smells blood in the water. Expect a monster game from him with the season on the line.
But, as it has so many times in these playoffs, it will come down to whether or not his teammates come along for the ride.