He leads the team in scoring with 18.4 points per game in the playoffs and his performances have drawn huge praise from franchise legend Paul Pierce.
The question now becomes whether or not the magic of the new, old starting five will hold heading into Game 6. Almost everyone praised Koby Altman's overhaul of the Cavaliers roster and believed he had acquired the youthful energy and shooting needed to propel this team to the Finals. His second stint with the Cavs could end this summer if he opts out of his $35.6 million contract for next season and leaves again as a free agent, a decision he can delay again with a win.
Also on the line is James' consecutive Finals streak.
So, yes, the stakes couldn't be higher. The Celtics played bad shooting just 36.5% from the field.
"I look forward to seeing us respond on Friday night", LeBron James said following the 96-83 loss. I know it's coming. In Game 5, James scored 10 points on nine iso possessions, Jordan Clarkson hit a three-point shot on his lone iso play and the rest of the team went 0 for 5. That season, Boston knocked out James and the Cavs in six games in the second round, and James left the Cavs for the Miami Heat.
Cleveland has been here before, getting blown out in Games 1 and 2 on the road only to return home and bounce back to even the series. The last team to represent the East in the Finals that didn't have James - the Celtics in 2010. They realized James has reached seven straight NBA Finals, won three of those, and averaged about 30 points and a triple-double regardless of the opponent. Both Lue and James acknowledged that was the case.
LeBron James had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Love scored 14 for the Cavaliers.
The Celtics know they are capable of disrupting James, because the turnovers have been a problem all series long. They outrebounded the Cavaliers, 45-39, and were more careful with the ball.
Tatum, Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell are the only rookies to start every game of their teams' postseason run.
With the Celtics now holding a 3-2 lead in the series, Game 6 is Friday night in Cleveland. "I was still trying to make plays, put our team in position to win".
The last time the Cavs faced an elimination scenario - which means the last time they had to deal with the whole "LeBron's last game" narrative - was Game 7 of the first round against the Pacers. While James downplayed possible fatigue, at least one Celtics player seemed to acknowledge that James wasn't his typical self.
"Well, first and foremost, with regard to Al and his composure and his poise and kind of a steadying influence, I think that he has a great effect on all of our guys in the locker room", said Brad Stevens.