Turns out this LeBron James guy is pretty good. With Cleveland facing elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals, James scored 46 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished 9 assists as the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 109-99. Assuming his spaceship doesn’t get repaired in time to whisk him back to his home planet before Sunday, LeBron will be must-see TV in Game 7 on Sunday night.
The Cavaliers were in a tough spot on Friday. Kevin Love, Cleveland’s second-most-talented offensive player, left the game with a head injury in the first quarter and did not return. The Celtics, for the most part, played characteristically beyond their years, getting great performances from Terry Rozier (28 points, 6-10 from deep) and Jaylen Brown (27 points) and shooting 51 percent from the field as a team.
After Cleveland’s Game 5 loss, much of the conversation surrounding the Cavs was about whether or not LeBron was fatigued. “I think everybody at this point is tired or worn down,” James said after the Cavs’ 96-83 loss. While everybody on both teams is probably gassed, no one else managed to play more than 40 minutes on Friday night. LeBron played 46, and he looked like a bull on roller skates the entire time. (This is a good thing.)
With Boston whittling down Cleveland’s lead in the fourth quarter, LeBron sent the Celtics back to the team bus with a deep, contested 3-pointer.
On the next possession, he hit from the same exact spot, slamming the bus door shut on the Celtics’ lingering fingers. (Ow.)
For almost any other NBA player, this would have been a career-defining performance. For LeBron, it definitely cracked his top five games of the last month.
Friday marked LeBron’s seventh 40-point game this postseason. This run has included a buzzer-beating game-winner against the Pacers, a 45-point performance in that series’ Game 7, and another game-winner, against the Raptors, that all but forced Toronto to secede from the NBA (I believe the city is focusing on handball now).
LeBron and the Cavs face quite a test on Sunday. The Celtics are 10-0 at home, and if Love did in fact sustain a concussion, then his chances of playing are slim. Even if Cleveland loses in Boston, LeBron will be able to lay claim to one of the best postseasons in NBA history. For LeBron and only LeBron, accomplishing only that much would be a disappointment.