Basketball

LeBron James scores 44 points as Cavs level series

Cavs superstar ready for Boston's 'hostile environment' in Game 5

LeBron James scored 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 111-102 victory over the Boston Celtics yesterday morning (Singapore time) at Quicken Loans Arena to even the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

Kyle Korver scored 14 points for the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, while Tristan Thompson recorded 13 points and 12 rebounds, and George Hill scored 13 points.

Jaylen Brown scored 25 points and Jayson Tatum had 17 for the second-seeded Celtics, while Terry Rozier notched 16 points and 11 assists.

Game 5 is tomorrow morning (Singapore time) in Boston, where the Celtics are undefeated in this season's play-offs, and James is already gearing up for the contest.

"It's a hostile environment," said James, who also contributed five rebounds, three assists and two steals to spark a crucial home triumph.

"There is no love in there. If you don't have green on, if you don't play for that team, if you don't bleed green, they've got no love for you.

"So we've got to come out with a bunker mentality and understand it's just us. It's going to be a great atmosphere."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens echoed that sentiment.

If you don't have green on, if you don't play for that team, if you don't bleed green, they've got no love for you. LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers facing the Celtics in Boston in Game 5

"It's a best two of three to go to the Finals. It doesn't get much better than that," Stevens said.

"In this deal, it's a blast to have to grit your teeth, get up off the mat and go after it again. That's part of what makes these guys on both sides special."

Cleveland shot 50.6 per cent from the field and had a 47-37 rebounding edge. Boston shot 41.2 per cent from the floor.

James drained a three-pointer with 1:43 left to record his sixth 40-point outing of this post-season and give the Cavaliers a 109-95 lead.

Philadelphia's Allen Iverson (2001) is the most recent player to have six 40-point performances in a single play-off year.

"I put the work in day in and day out on my body, working on my game every day to try to put myself in the best condition I can be in the post-season," James said.

"My teammates, my coaching staff allow me to go out and do the things to try to help us win. And besides the seven turnovers tonight, I earned their trust a little bit more."

James also registered his 2,357th made field goal in the play-offs, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record that has stood since in 1989. Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is third on the all-time list.

"Anytime I'm in the same breath with the greats... It's just humbling," James said.

"He's the best at evaluating the game and figuring out what he wants and where he wants it," Stevens said of James.

"You have to make it as tough on him as possible." - AFP, REUTERS

Basketball