Following Cleveland’s Eastern Conference Finals Game 5 loss to the Celtics, LeBron James was asked about his level of exhaustion.
“I had my moments. I think everybody at this point is tired or worn down.”
LeBron James is turning 34 in December of this year. He led the entire NBA in minutes played this season. James currently leads all players in postseason minutes played. He has played long into the postseason for most of his career, making it to an absurd seven straight Finals. The man has every reason to be exhausted at this point.
LeBron Needs a Break
LeBron has a usage rate of 35.7% this postseason, second among all players (behind James Harden). He has scored nearly as many points this postseason as his three closest teammates combined. He leads the team in assists, steals, and blocks.
Perhaps the depletion of energy has to do with the fact that he has had to carry the team on his back all year. Maybe the relentless and physically bruising defense exhibited by a younger Celtics squad is finally getting to him.
LeBron looks absolutely gassed. pic.twitter.com/okcCafGhdz
— ESPN (@espn) May 24, 2018
Fatigued in the Postseason
Whatever the case may be, LeBron was undeniably drained of anything left in the tank during Game 5. At times he could be seen bent over with his hands on his knees, panting for air. During timeouts he sat hunched over on the bench with a towel over his face, soaking in every moment of down time possible. He uncharacteristically lost fast break foot races to the Celtics, failing to even attempt a chase down block on a cutting Jayson Tatum. He was caught jogging back on defense, which lead to a big Morris three late in the game.
James constantly argued non-fouls, leaving much to be desired on the defensive side of the court. His refusal to attack mismatches when given the opportunity was curious. Getting Terry Rozier switched onto him was a key part of Cleveland’s success in Games 3 and 4. When he got these mismatches in Game 5 often he would settle on fade-away jumpers or just pass out of it.
The Celtics took notice of this, particularly Marcus Morris.
“He has to do a lot for that team, everybody knows at the end of the day these games are coming up pretty quick.” Marcus Morris said in a postgame interview. “We just played on Sunday and these games are coming fast. At the end of the day, I mean, **** I’m tired. Everybody else is tired. We’ve still got to play. He does a lot for his team. Scores, assists, rebounds, I would think he gets a little tired.”
Is This the End for the Cavs?
Not only did James reveal to the world in Game 5 how little he has left, he looked completely disinterested. His nonchalant demeanor and lackadaisical defense doesn’t bode well for Cleveland moving forward. Also, the absence of emotion in his play was all too transparent, and if you didn’t know any better it looked as if he was playing in a mid-regular season game.
The last time the Celtics defeated LeBron James in the playoffs it was 2010. That series marks the last time LeBron lost to any Eastern Conference team in a playoff series. The Celtics sent the king packing to Miami that year, seeking greener pastures with a better supporting cast. Many wonder if the Celtics bring down LeBron this year he will once again seek a brighter future as part of a different organization.
The Celtics are now closer than they have ever been since that fateful playoff series. They are one win from the NBA Finals and one win from sending LeBron to a long summer’s rest. A summer in which he will spend much time pondering his options. A summer full of questions.
Given what the world saw from him in Game 5, there is doubt even the king himself will be able to muster up enough of his reserve to pull out two straight wins. The Celtics have LeBron against the ropes, and it looks as if his knees are about to buckle.