Lebron is Intense

LeBron James has delivered facials in all shapes and sizes. Never one like this.

Incensed by a flagrant foul inflicted on teammate Sasha Pavlovic, James went nose-to-nose with New Jersey's Mikki Moore in the third quarter of Game 4 on Monday night, a heated confrontation that fired up Cleveland and sent the Cavaliers to an 87-85 win and 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

Oddsmakers have made Cleveland -5.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 182.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 62% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -5.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

``It really ticked me off that they would try to do something like that to Sasha,'' James said Tuesday. ``They tried to hurt him. And me as the leader, I had to stick up for my teammate. I didn't like it - at all.''

While watching tape of New Jersey's victory in Game 3, James said he noticed the Nets picking on and being more physical with Pavlovic, who has done a nice job so far in the series keeping Vince Carter under wraps.

``I guess the intent was to try and go at Sasha in a harmful manner,'' said James, who hasn't figured out why the Nets have targeted Pavlovic. ``Sasha knows he has 14 guys behind him. Especially, he's got me.''

And this best-of-seven series has quickly developed an undercurrent of hostility, a theme already present in the Phoenix-San Antonio and Utah-Golden State showdowns out West.

With a win in Game 5 on Wednesday night, the Cavaliers can advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time and first since 1992. They've also got a chance to win a series at home, something they've only done on three occasions in their 37-year history but never since moving into Quicken Loans Arena - formerly known as Gund Arena - in 1994.

So much of this is new for the Cavs, who in 14 previous postseason appearances have never built a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series.

``We've done a lot of things the last few years that the Cavs haven't done, so it's nothing new,'' James said. ``Hopefully we can take care of business and make some more history.''

The Nets might soon be history, too.

They'll attempt to become the ninth team to erase a 3-1 deficit, but to do so, they'll need a much better effort from Carter, who went 6-of-23 from the field in Game 4 and is shooting just 34 percent (31-of-91) in the series.

Carter's inconsistent play down the stretch has been most perplexing. On Monday, he was 1-for-7 in the fourth quarter, and on the Nets' final possession, he was indecisive with the ball and fumbled it out of bounds after being double teamed by Eric Snow and Larry Hughes.

That last play stood out, but Nets coach Lawrence Frank lamented too many other missed opportunities by his club, now in a win-or-go-home pickle.

``We understand what we need to do,'' he said. ``It's not going to be easy, but why is the closeout game the hardest? Because the team you're playing is desperate, and when you're desperate, you're willing to risk anything to get it done. That means as long as we haven't lost confidence, when they make runs we won't hang our heads and we'll keep on fighting.''

Frank, of course, means figuratively fighting not trading punches with the Cavs, who appeared ready to throw down if need be on Monday.

Cleveland trailed by four when Pavlovic drove the lane and got flattened with a two-handed shove by Moore, who got a flagrant foul and tongue lashing from James, who refused to specify the contents of his message.

``I didn't think it was a fair play,'' James said. ``A guy is going up off one leg and he's up in the air and he gets pushed. You can injure somebody like that. We're not a dirty team at all. We don't look for anything, but when things start to happen to us, we've got to react.''

The Cavs went on a 14-3 run after the altercation, giving them a two-point lead entering the fourth. Moore's body blow also intensified Cleveland's defensive pressure and the Nets shot only 3-of-16 in the final period with no field goals in the last seven minutes.

``We have guys on our team when little incidents like that happen, they tend to take it personally and try to do something about it on the floor,'' Cavs coach Mike Brown said.

James' response to Moore's shove was another sign of maturity for both he and the Cavaliers. Criticized for being too nice at times, Cleveland's superstar showed he isn't going to back down.

Last season, when Detroit's Rasheed Wallace threw an elbow and opened a nasty gash on the head of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, none of his Cavalier teammate's came to the rescue. Those days may be over.

``It's a different mentality,'' Brown said. ``It was a growing and learning experience for us as a team and our guys even met and talked about that situation on their own. When Sasha got hit, you don't want your star player in the mix because you don't want somebody taking a swing.

``But the first guy there was LeBron. When that happens our guys understand that we're a team and we're going to stick together.''

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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