- Maddie Meyer/Getty
- LeBron James scored 35 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists to help the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 to advance to the NBA Finals.
- In April, former Cavs GM David Griffin told Business Insider that James leading this Cavs team to the Finals would perhaps be the most impressive accomplishment of his career.
- James’ supporting cast often looked like it might not be enough to help get the Cavs out of the East, but James proved once again that he can go to another level to carry his team.
Once again, the key to getting out of the Eastern Conference playoffs was LeBron James.
On Sunday, James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 87-79 Game 7 win over the Boston Celtics, making it James’ eighth straight trip to the Finals and his fourth straight with the Cavaliers.
Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion), James poured in 35 points on 12-24 shooting with 15 rebound, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and 8 turnovers while playing all 48 minutes, willing the Cavs to the win with a blend of savvy pace-control and timely shot-making. He also received the help he was sorely lacking throughout the series, getting 19 points from Jeff Green and 12 points from J.R. Smith.
That James could steer this Cavs team, which so often vacillated between underwhelming and dysfunctional, out of the East could be considered among his greatest career accomplishments. In fact, former Cavs GM David Griffin told Business Insider in April that if James could get these Cavs to the Finals, it would be James’ greatest feat.
“If he makes it to the Finals this year with the group he has, it’ll be the truest testament to his greatness,” Griffin said. “Because, mentally, to be able to grind and do the things he’s had to do, if he were to do it eight years in a row, it would just be truly unprecedented.”
Griffin added, “I think this year in particular because there’s been so much turmoil, because it’s been such an unsteady year in some ways emotionally, it would be an even bigger feat mentally than it ever has been
There were two versions of the Cavaliers this year. The first threatened to come apart with infighting before GM Koby Altman blew them up at the trade deadline, bringing in four new players mid-season. Those players, while appearing beneficial on paper, never really added much to the team’s arsenal, giving them little production in the postseason.
Instead, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue and James essentially had to rely on the tried-and-true veterans on the team in the playoffs. And even they, many times, were not enough, particularly against a well-rounded (but severely short-handed) Celtics squad that seemed too disciplined and talented to lose to James simply going into overdrive.
After a grueling seven-game first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, then convincing four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors, it seemed like James might not be enough to get the Cavs over the hump.
Instead James delivered with his back against the wall. Game 7 wasn’t James’ most spectacular performance, particularly after a 46-point outing in Game 6 to keep the Cavs’ season alive – though the sports world has become spoiled by James’ greatness – but it was a gritty and cunning effort. James at times appeared to be on cruise control, saving his bursts of energy for when he needed it most. And he delivered in those moments, with plays like a huge, fastbreak rejection on a Terry Rozier dunk attempt, or a game-sealing and-one layup in the final minutes, carrying Marcus Morris on his shoulders.
BLOCKED BY JAMES! pic.twitter.com/yayInAIZH5
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 28, 2018
— NBA (@NBA) May 28, 2018
Game 7 was James’ 100th game of the season. It was the fifth straight game with only one day off in between, with three flights mixed in. This is the part where we remind you of the miles on James’ legs.
None of it mattered. When James needed it, he found the reserves to push his team across the finish line.
On paper, the Cavs would seemingly be outmatched by either team that comes out of the Western Conference. But we’ve seen before that sometimes all you need is LeBron James.