CLEVELAND -- Following the biggest rout in Cleveland Cavaliers franchise playoff history, a 116-78 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday, LeBron James said his easy mood going into the game reflected the outcome.
"I've been a part of some really adverse situations,” James said after putting up 23 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals, “and I just didn't believe that this was one of them."
James, speaking to reporters from the postgame podium, was responding to a question about him saying he had a “sense of calmness” at shootaround earlier that day.
“It’s just been very calm about the whole situation, understanding that our guys knew what we did and what we didn’t accomplish in Toronto," he said. "I’m not taking away from the fact how big of a game this was, because it is -- it’s a Game 5 on our home floor and the series [was] tied 2-2.
“But from the very moment that we lost Game 4, I was just very calm about the whole situation, seeing the good that we can prepare and get better for Game 5, instead of looking at all the bad that we did. Just mentally, just having these guys focus, and they answered the call.”
They answered with, by some measures, the most dominant performance in conference finals history: The Cavs’ 31-point lead at halftime was the largest at the half in any conference finals game, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. And before Wednesday, the Raptors had never trailed at halftime by 30 points or more in any game -- playoffs or regular season -- since the team began play in 1995.
James had, of course, a wealth of experience in objectively more adversarial situations than playing a nonelimination game in a tied series at home. There was his 45-point, 15-rebound performance in Game 6 in Boston to force a Game 7 in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, which ultimately led to him winning his first championship with the Miami Heat. There was the NBA Finals the following season, when his Heat trailed the San Antonio Spurs 3-2 and won the final two games of the series to clinch a second consecutive ring.
There are at least a half-dozen other times in his career where James couldn’t elude the predicament in which he found himself, including, most recently, the 2015 Finals, when the Cavs squandered a 2-1 lead against the Golden State Warriors as they limped to the finish line without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love on the court.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue displayed a similar demeanor to his star player prior to tipoff.
“No pressure,” Lue said in his pregame remarks. “Just have to go out and play. We don't feel the pressure. We won two games on our floor, and they came out and won two games on their floor. Now we have to perform. I wouldn't say pressure.”
Now down 3-2 in the series, the pressure falls on the Raptors as they face potential elimination in Friday’s Game 6 in Toronto (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).