LeBron James returned to Cleveland last summer and turned the Cavaliers into instant title contenders. The Atlanta Hawks pulled off a remarkable turnaround in Mike Budenholzer's second season as coach, winning 60 games to claim the top seed in the East.

On Wednesday night, the teams will meet in Game 1 of the conference final.

For James, it's championship or bust.

"I just try to lead these guys," he said. "I just want them to be great. "

James, who won two titles with the Heat and lost in the NBA Finals his other two years, came back to Cleveland — where he started — looking to lead the Cavaliers to their first championship.

He is halfway there, with the top-seeded Hawks standing in his way.

"He's got his eyes on the prize," Atlanta's Kent Bazemore said after practice Tuesday. "We've got to go through him to get where we want to go."

The playoffs have been more trying for Atlanta, which struggled to put away eighth-seeded Brooklyn in the opening round and got all it could handle from Washington in the second round, with two games decided by buzzer-beating shots and two others coming down to the closing seconds.


•Cavaliers All-Star guard Kyrie Irving had a "light, but good" practice a day before Cleveland opens the Eastern Conference finals in Atlanta. Irving has been slowed because of knee and foot injuries during the postseason but expects to play in the opener against the Hawks on Wednesday night.

•Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has been named winner of the NBA Cares Community Assist Award. The award was voted on by fans and an NBA panel of judges.