CLEVELAND - LeBron James is a soft-spoken, 24-year-old man - even in front of a microphone.
After the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Orlando Magic, 112-102, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night, the NBA's Most Valuable Player and Cavs' teammate Mo Williams were front and center in a jam-packed media interview room at Quicken Loans Arena.
James - who recorded a triple-double with 37 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists in the win, which cut the Magic lead in the series to 3-2 - is also a snappy dresser and very modest.
"When my guys make shots, it makes it easier for myself," James said.
Williams, one of those guys, added 24 points, including 6-of-9 from behind the arc. The 6-foot-1 Cleveland guard and 2009 NBA All-Star honoree scored 11 first-quarter points to help the Cavaliers stake themselves to a 35-18 advantage.
Daniel Gibson, a Cavs' non-starter, chipped in with 11 second-half points.
"Daniel stepped up and hit some big shots," said Cleveland head coach Mike Brown, whose Cavalier team is scheduled to play Game 6 at Orlando Saturday night.
"Mo was great the entire game, and LeBron was huge for us. He had a heck of a game. A triple-double? That's what great players do."
Guarding James has to be an opposing player's worst nightmare. He is so big, fast and quick at 6-8, 250 pounds. After Game 4, Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy said in a TV interview that James "made a move like tight end" to receive an out-of-bounds pass - and that pretty much sums up the Cavalier superstar's athleticism.
James would indeed make a terrific tight end for the Cleveland Browns.
The thing about James is, he's also fearless and has no qualms whatsoever about penetration to the basket - even if Orlando's 6-11, 265-pound Dwight Howard, the NBA's Defender of the Year, is there. Howard, incidentally, fouled out with 2:22 remaining in Thursday night's game.
"That's what I do," James said. "I attack no matter who's in the paint."
More often than not, when James does drive to the hole, he gets fouled - usually hard. In Game 5, he converted 15-of-19 freebies, and the Cavaliers as a team made 27-of-34.
"We put them on the line too much," said Van Gundy, who, despite the setback, wished his wife a happy 21st wedding annversary prior to Thursday's postgame interview. "And if James gets in the paint, it's automatically a foul. We need to find a way to stop that."
If the Magic do Saturday night, they'll probably advance to the NBA finals.
"We have to learn from our mistakes," Howard said, "and I have to find a way to stay aggressive without fouling out."
The Cleveland Cavs, of course, will be determined to extend the series to seven games - back to the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena, where they are now 45-3 this season.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441, or at firstname.lastname@example.org