Both the practical and symbolic significance of Game 5 between Cleveland and Boston couldn't be overstated. The rest of the NBA's elite made quick work of their conference semifinal opponents. Meanwhile, the 61-win Cavaliers were struggling with a Celtics team that was supposed to be creaky and ill-equipped for the long march into June.
Game 5 in a knotted series is always pivotal, and that's particularly true for a team whose aspirations were as lofty as Cleveland's. The expectations of the Cavs and their fans are inextricably linked with LeBron James' future in Cleveland. Success would supposedly deter James from leaving Ohio, but if the Cavs were to do the improbable and lose to the fourth-seeded Celtics in the series, all bets were off. A Game 5 loss would've been especially devastating because it could've signaled James' last game in Cleveland as a member of the Cavaliers.
Nobody on the planet had more control over the events of Tuesday night than James. He's one of the few players in the game with the capacity to will victory, but the results of Game 5 were disastrous for James and Cleveland. The NBA's MVP finished with only 15 points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field. James was a mere afterthought in the flow of a game his team lost by 32 points.
How did it happen?