LeBron James said this week that his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 held meaning beyond a single-minded quest for an NBA championship.
But for the man who has put Cleveland, a city in the midst of a 52-year major sports title drought, two wins away from a championship for a second straight year, having his season end in Game Five of the NBA Finals wasn't an option either.
"I understood the magnitude of this game, I knew how great of a team we were playing. I know my teammates trust me, I trust them, and that was the result of it," James said after a season-saving win over the Golden States Warriors on Monday.
With the win the Cavaliers, powered by 41 points from both James and guard Kyrie Irving, pulled to within 3-2 in the NBA Finals and sent the best-of-seven championship series back to Ohio for Game Six on Thursday.
The game remained close until midway through the third quarter when the Cavs opened up an 11-point lead. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors could only muster 13 points and failed to stave off Irving and James, who had 12 and 5 respectively.
The absence of Warriors power forward Draymond Green, whose late-game kerfuffle with James on Friday lead to a one-game suspension and a war of words between the franchises, was a definite advantage according to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue.
"I've said it all along that he is the best guy in the NBA as far as reading when to help, triple switches and kicking guys out of mismatches, knowing when to go, when not to go," Lue told reporters. "He's an underrated shot blocker and he can guard one through five so that definitely help hurt their defense."
Only 10 teams in NBA history have successfully overcome 3-1 deficits, a feat most recently accomplished by the Warriors in the Western Conference final, but none have ever done it in the championship round.
Add to that the return of Green and the stakes for the Cavs' next do-or-die matchup are even higher.
For Irving's part, the high stakes match high expectations.
"We're not satisfied. We understand the magnitude of what Game Six means for us at home," Irving said.