Tatum added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals one day after finishing a single vote shy of a unanimous selection to the NBA's All-Rookie team.
The question now becomes whether or not the magic of the new, old starting five will hold heading into Game 6. All game long, the Cavaliers toggled between the suburbs and exurbs of contention, before moving decisively to distant rural reaches in the last six minutes. He can be a free agent at season's end and will consider coming back to the Cavs as well as a host of other options. But if Cleveland doesn't figure out how to counter Stevens's defensive adjustments and get some help for James, the Cavs will have nearly no chance of making the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.
So, yes, the stakes couldn't be higher.
"We had moments but we just didn't make enough plays".
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue was answering a question about Boston's defense on LeBron James during a teleconference when he tripped the security system at his home. I know he'll be great tomorrow, and then after that we'll see. In Game 5, James scored 10 points on nine iso possessions, Jordan Clarkson hit a three-point shot on his lone iso play and the rest of the team went 0 for 5.
Cleveland has been here before, getting blown out in Games 1 and 2 on the road only to return home and bounce back to even the series.
Boston's Jaylen Brown and the young Celtics cast cruise past the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5. James scored 26 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out five assists, but he didn't dominate the game as he normally does. So maybe James has had to overcome some of Lue's learning curve in his third year as an National Basketball Association head coach? The Celtics were near-perfect at the foul line, and had just eight turnovers to the Cavs' 15.
Boston's Aron Baynes blocks a shot from Cleveland's George Hill.
Boston won the rebounding battle 45-39.
This was Tatum's ninth 20-point game of the postseason; he now sits fourth on the NBA's all-time list of most postseason points by a rookie with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (352) in his sights if Boston can extend its playoff run. Speaking after the Cavs' 96-83 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday night, James insisted that his remarkable postseason record has merely been a byproduct of his other accomplishments for the better part of the past decade. "It's just all about just win every game and it should put us in position to play for a championship". "Know we've played well at home, but we have to beat them". While those stats are undoubtedly impressive, it is possible that his fatigue in Wednesday's game, and the series overall, has influenced his play.
But it's already safe to say, regardless of the outcome of Game 6 or what happens going forward, that 2017-18 is James's best year of a storied career (at least thus far).
"We're right there, man, right there", Boston's Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston last night.