Combined attacking effort key to Cavs' revival

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • LeBron James earlier this week was again named as a finalist for this season's National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, but even the "King" cannot do it all by himself on the court.

And if Cleveland are to fight back from 2-0 down against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, then the rest of the Cavaliers will have to take the scoring load off James, starting with Game 3 of the best-of-seven series at the Quicken Loans Arena.

"Other guys have to contribute and step up," Cavs big man Tristan Thompson said.

"We all have to do it collectively. Of course, it's a huge luxury having LeBron on our team. At the same time, we have to be ready to play and we have to do our job."

Team-mate J.R. Smith said the Cavs are forcing James, who finds himself in an two-game deficit in an Eastern Conference play-off series for the first time since 2008, to play "hero ball".

But even a 42-point triple-double by James, a four-time MVP, was not enough in the 107-94 Game 2 defeat in Boston.

And against a Boston defensive side ranked No. 1 in the regular season, the Cavs connected on just 36 per cent of their shots from the field - and only 15 per cent from three-point range - in Game 1.

Despite shooting 46 per cent in Game 2, they still did not reach 100 points and the Cavs know the Celtics are a tough nut to crack.

"They just do a really good job of contesting shots," Cavs' Kevin Love said. "They've been physical the entire play-offs. We just have to bring it at home and make sure we come out and are in attack mode."

He added that they have targeted an improved offensive flow in the practices leading up to Game 3.

"We're finding ways to just get the ball to the next side. Boston is doing it (swing passes) a lot, so we need to follow suit and do that as well, get better shots," he said.

The Cavs are fine-tuning their approach with a sense of calm, with the knowledge that they have twice won a play-off series after trailing 2-0 - in the 2007 Eastern Finals against the Detroit Pistons and in the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, when they trailed both 2-0 and 3-1.

"We know what it takes," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. "We've got to take care of business on our home floor. We're ready to do that."



East Finals, Game 3: Singtel TV Ch110, 8.30am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 20, 2018, with the headline 'Combined attacking effort key to Cavs' revival'. Print Edition | Subscribe