National Basketball Association
LeBron confident Cavs can hold off Warriors, force Game 7
National Basketball Association

LeBron confident Cavs can hold off Warriors, force Game 7

Published Jun. 15, 2015 5:50 p.m. ET

CLEVELAND (AP) Wearing a leather Cavaliers cap and a steely look, LeBron James used his postgame platform to proclaim that he's ''the best player in the world.''

It's not as if his greatness was in dispute after five dominant games of these NBA Finals. James has shown no one challenges his on-court supremacy. However, while his game and confidence soar, James knows he must do even more, if possible, to stop Cleveland's inspiring postseason from crashing.

''I've got to be better,'' James said.

Even that might not be enough.


Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are one win from a golden trophy.

Up 3-2 in a scintillating series loaded with subplots and strategy, the Warriors can win their first title since 1975 on Tuesday night with a win in Game 6. James didn't blink after Game 5 when he declared he was not only the top player on seven continents, but prepared to raise his game.

''We've got enough to win it,'' he said. ''I feel confident.''

But so are the Warriors, and James' bravado - and his preposterous postseason statistics aside - won't matter if Curry, who found his stroke a few games back in Quicken Loans Arena, shoots the way he did in Sunday night's 104-91 win.

Curry scored 17 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, when he answered every one of James' big baskets with stunning buckets of his own as the game's two biggest stars played a finals version of ''H-O-R-S-E'' to the delight of millions of TV viewers and a sonic crowd inside Oracle Arena.

Curry showed why he was the league's MVP this season, setting the Warriors up to take home the shimmering Larry O'Brien Trophy. Curry was treated for dehydration after Game 5, but he's expected to be fully recovered as the Warriors try to finish the Cavs.

''We fought hard all year and put ourselves in good position now to go to Cleveland and hopefully close it out,'' Curry said. ''We're confident.''

James stands in Golden State's way, and clearly intends to do everything in his power to force Game 7. It's unfathomable to think James can give any more than he already has, but he has no choice.

''I don't put a ceiling on what I'm capable of doing,'' he said. ''I know I'm shouldering a lot of the burden, but it is what it is.''

After a 40-point, 14-rebound, 11-assist performance, he's averaging 36.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists - a mind-boggling statistical line never before seen in finals history. James is doing it all with All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love recovering from postseason surgeries, sparking debate about whether he deserves to be the finals MVP - win or lose. Jerry West (1969) is the only player to win MVP honors for a losing team.

''He sets the pace,'' said Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. ''He's doing what defenses give him and he's playing smart.''

Smart and sublime may not be enough.

Cleveland's supporting cast isn't pulling its weight. The Cavs got early baskets from J.R. Smith in Game 5, but the streaky shooter didn't score in the last 33 minutes. Guards Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova went a combined 5 of 18 and were tentative with the ball.

Cavs coach David Blatt matched Golden State coach Steve Kerr's smaller starting lineup in Game 5, electing to play center Timofey Mozgov for just nine minutes after the 7-footer scored 28 points with 10 rebounds in Game 4. Blatt was defensive about his decision, snapping that he did what he felt necessary.

''Did I make a mistake?'' asked Blatt, who had James at center for long stretches and didn't indicate he'll change for Game 6. ''I felt that the best chance for us to stay in the game and to have a chance to win was to play it the way that we played it.''

The Cavs didn't expect to be in this position, not after losing Love in the first round, and not once Irving broke his kneecap in Game 1 of the finals.

They've been discarded before, so this latest adversity is nothing new to James and his teammates.

When he led the Cavs to his first finals in 2007, James watched as San Antonio finished off a sweep in Cleveland, Tim Duncan and the Spurs reveling in their championship under a shower of confetti. Now in his fifth consecutive finals, James doesn't want this storybook postseason to end.

Judging by his demeanor after Game 5, that's the plan.

''We've got enough to win it,'' he said. ''I feel confident.''


Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more