The Cleveland Cavaliers are headed to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season, as they beat the Boston Celtics 132-105 in Game 5.
LeBron James (35 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) was once again the story of the night, surpassing Michael Jordan for the all-time NBA postseason scoring record and locking up his own seventh straight Finals appearance, but his dominance wasn't the only factor at play on Thursday.
Here are three things you missed from the last non-Finals game of the 2017 NBA playoffs.
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J.R. Smith is still rounding into championship form
You can't really blame J.R. if his mind is somewhere else during this postseason run. He's been spending all of his free time at the hospital with his daughter, Dakota, who was born five months premature.
Smith also missed significant time this season with a broken thumb, and he never quite got back in rhythm when he returned. It's almost as if he's trying to do too much to make up for his absence, as we saw in Game 5 when he committed a silly turnover on a behind-the-back pass. He finished Thursday night with six points in 24 minutes and averaged just seven points per game in the series.
Dakota did get to come home this week, which is great. Getting to spend the next six days or so with her should help Smith get back to business; the Cavaliers are going to need his 3-point shooting and surprisingly pesky defense to shock the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Smith just needs to play his game and let the offense come to him, and things will work out.
David Butler IIDavid Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Celtics simply ran out of gas
We can argue about whether the Celtics are better without Isaiah Thomas until we're all blue in the face, but one thing's for sure: having to make up for Thomas' absence meant Boston's role players didn't have anything left in the tank on Thursday.
Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and the rest of the overmatched Celtics gave it everything they had when their star point guard went down, and they should be commended for fighting to the bitter end. The inevitable force known as LeBron James wore them down, though, before the dam finally broke in Game 5.
From the opening tip, Boston didn't have the energy to maintain the mental discipline to execute its defensive game plan, and LeBron tore through the minimal resistance to lead the Cavs to an easy win.
The lesson here is simple: no matter how scrappy you are, every team needs a star scorer to carry the load and keep everyone else playing their roles. Otherwise, things can spiral out of control rather quickly.
Bob DeChiaraBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James had an easy adjustment for the Celtics' defensive strategy
LeBron doesn't go to the post very often anymore. He saves that skill for when he absolutely needs it.
But when the Celtics decided to dedicate all five defenders to stopping LeBron, as they did in Games 3 and 4, The King unleashed his ultimate weapon.
The Cavaliers put four shooters outside the 3-point line, with three on the far side opposite LeBron, and let their superstar go to work on the block, instead of having him try to attack from the the top of the key.
Boston couldn't send help defenders without risking a defensive three-second violation or, worse, a wide-open Cleveland shooter, so LeBron was free to feast on the likes of Jaylen Brown in single coverage.
You might slow LeBron down for a game or two, but eventually, he's going to figure you out.