OAKLAND • LeBron James said last week that his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 held meaning beyond a single-minded quest for a National Basketball Association championship.
But for the man who has put Cleveland, a city in the midst of a 52-year major sports title drought, two wins away from a championship for a second straight year, having his season end in Game 5 of the NBA Finals was not an option either.
"I understood the magnitude of this game. I knew how great a team we were playing. I know my team-mates trust me. I trust them, and that was the result of it," he said after a season-saving 112-97 win over the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
The game remained close until midway through the third quarter when the Cavaliers opened up an 11-point lead. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors could muster only 13 points and failed to silence Kyrie Irving and James, who had 12 and five respectively.
"We're just happy we got another day. That's all we can ask for," James said. "We got another day to survive.
"We're going to start preparing tonight, start preparing tomorrow and whenever Game 6 is, we'll be ready."
For Irving's part, the high stakes for the do-or-die showdown match high expectations.
"We're not satisfied. We understand the magnitude of what Game 6 means for us at home," he said.