CLEVELAND -- While LeBron James concedes that Wednesday's showdown against the Boston Celtics with first place in the Eastern Conference on the line and five games to play will be a "good test" for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he's not about to hype it up beyond that.
"I don't know, I've played in a lot of big games," James said following the Cavs' 122-102 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, marking Cleveland's first three-game winning streak since late February. "I don't ... I'm the last person to ask about a big game in the regular season. I'm sorry."
James, a 14-year veteran, has played in 1,058 regular-season games and another 199 in the postseason. Even with the prospect of winning the season series against Boston -- which would not only give the Cavs a full game lead over the Celtics but also hand them the tiebreaker should both teams finish with identical records -- and Cleveland trying to break a 1-9 record on the road on the second night of back-to-backs this season, James was nonplussed.
"Their crowd is going to be great, and it's a very good team we're going to be playing against tomorrow," James said of the Celtics, who are 8-2 in their past 10 games. "We know that. Taking nothing from them, they've been playing some great ball, but I'm not one to get caught up in the regular season. I'm sorry. I've been to six straight Finals, man. I'm the last person to ask about a regular-season game, dude. Sorry."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue's stated plan to play all of his players -- rather than rest them with the quick turnaround, as has been his custom this season -- would suggest that the Boston game is indeed more significant than others.
"Well, tonight was a big game, too," Lue said of the victory against the Magic. "For us to win this game to get to tomorrow's game. We understood that, and in that second half, we really played Cavaliers basketball. That's how we're capable of playing.
"Tomorrow, I know we're No. 1. We got up; we're up a half-game [considering Cleveland's 2-1 edge in the season series]. Going into tomorrow night's game, we know they're playing great and they're playing well at home. This will be a good challenge for us."
"It's just another game," Thomas said. "I think we've got to treat it like that. I mean, being No. 1 in the standings, you don't feel different. I don't, at least. I'm treating it like another game."
Not everyone in the Cavs' locker room downplayed the matchup, however.
"I think we need it," Kevin Love said. "It will be good for us, and it's definitely up there [with other big games], especially timing-wise. It will be a good test for us, and I think it will get us even more prepared, even more locked in, win or lose."
And Kyrie Irving couldn't hide his smile when asked about what the game against Boston means.
"Can't wait," he said. "It's exciting. It's exciting basketball -- 1-2, 2-1, whatever you want to call it. Whoever's competing for first place, second place, so, it's exciting. It's just great competitive basketball, and I'm glad we get to see them in the regular season. I know they're excited, as well. A lot of great players on the floor at one time, like I always say. But it's great competition. See where we stand."