We’ve seen this from LeBron James before: When the odds are against him, he plays it cool.
After a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward insisted he had “zero level of concern.” After the Cavs lost again to the Celtics on Tuesday night, falling into a 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference finals, James again refused to hit the panic button.
“I think I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’m not going to lose sleep over it.”
That mindset has served James well in the past. His Cavs trailed the Golden State Warriors 2-0 and 3-1 in the 2016 NBA Finals before storming back to win the title. Cleveland dropped Game 1 to the Indiana Pacers in the first round but went on to win the series in seven.
This situation might be a little more dire, though.
For starters, LeBron already has history working against him. The Celtics are a perfect 37-0 all-time after leading a best-of-seven series 2-0. They’re 9-0 at home this postseason, and if the Cavs can’t snap that streak, their season will be over.
But what should concern James more is that even his best punch couldn’t knock out Boston on Tuesday night.
After a disappointing Game 1, the Cavs star went off in Game 2 to the tune of 42 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. His 21 points in the first quarter tied a personal playoff best — but only gave Cleveland a four-point cushion. The Celtics withstood James’ onslaught and then used a balanced scoring effort and strong team defense to roar back for the win.
Meanwhile, LeBron’s supporting cast (outside Kevin Love) was nowhere to be found. Cavs players not named James or Love scored just 30 points combined, with their starting backcourt, George Hill and J.R. Smith, mustering just three points.
Part of that is a testament to the Celtics’ defense, which succeeded in neutralizing sharpshooter Kyle Korver and making James shoulder the load. But Cleveland must get more out of the rest of its roster if it wants any hope of winning this series.
To be clear, hope is far from lost for James and Co. Boston is 1-4 on the road this postseason, and if the Cavs take care of business at Quicken Loans Arena in Games 3 and 4, they’ll be right back in the series. After Tuesday night, though, it’s obvious that adjustments need to be made.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images