LeBron, Cavs force game six
So much noise surrounded LeBron James heading into Game Five of the NBA Finals.
It came from the Golden State Warriors players, who chided James for being overly sensitive to trash talk in the heat of the moment.
It came from raucous Oracle Arena, one of the loudest fan bases in the league, that wanted a pound of flesh from James for his involvement in Draymond Green's suspension.
It came from the vocal group of James' detractors, who were delighting in the possibility of the four-time MVP falling flat in the finals again, further proof in their eyes that he will never measure up to the unprecedented hype he received from his formative days in Akron, Ohio.
Facing elimination and a fifth career loss in the finals, James delivered a tour de force of a performance with 41 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots in the Cavaliers' 112-97 victory that pushed the series back to Cleveland.
It was an emphatic response to three days' worth of controversy. And as chaotic as it seemed from the outside, the 31-year-old James soaked it all in with the perspective born from 13 years in the pressure cooker.
"I guess when you're with the game of basketball and big moments like tonight and moments throughout your career, you wish you could get back," James said.
It was an overpowering performance reminiscent of the 45 points and 15 rebounds he put up for Miami against Boston in Game Six of the Eastern Conference finals in 2012. Only this time, James had a little more help.
Kyrie Irving was sensational, scoring 41 points on 17-for-24 shooting to give the Cavaliers the first pair of teammates to score at least 40 in the same game in NBA Finals history.
Now Cleveland is equally desperate and hoping for a similar effect heading into Game Six in Cleveland on Thursday.