LeBron's expected magnificence in Game 7

James improves to 13-0 in Round 1 with another virtuoso performance

Jake Chapman
April 29, 2018 - 4:52 pm

© Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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I tried to say it out loud. I couldn’t. Throughout the Cavs/Pacers round 1 series, especially in those moments when it seemed like Indiana had seized control, I tried to mouth the words of the following sentence:

“The Indiana Pacers beat a team with LeBron James on it in a 7-game series.”

It came out like a lie I told my parents when I was 16 and broke curfew.

“Dan’s car broke down so we had to wait for Jay to come pick us up and he was working at Pizza Hut and didn’t get out until midnight...”

Sure, it could TECHNICALLY have been true, but nobody believed it. I didn’t even believe it when I said it.

I was smart to know I was lying.

In fairness, it wasn’t all LeBron on Sunday, as the Cavs defeated the Pacers 105-101 and advanced to the second round of the eastern conference playoffs. For starters, his head coach finally figured out that a guy on his bench, one that’s played a key role in the team’s success these last four seasons, should be a part of his game plan. How Ty Lue let Tristan Thompson languish for all but 21 minutes in the first six games of the series is beyond me, but Lue rectified the situation Sunday, with great returns.

Thompson set the tone early, setting hard screens, providing a physical paint presence and grabbing six rebounds in his first 6 minutes or so on the floor. When all was said and done, he’d tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds, along with a massive, crucial 4th-quarter block on Darren Collison. George Hill came up huge in the second half too. He had 11 points, 9 of which came at the free throw line, and he added 6 boards and 3 assists. He was the shot in the arm that the team needed late when the energy was zapped.

But this afternoon was about the King and his kingdom, again. This was about a 7-7 start from the field, jumpers mixed in with drives and layups. A physical domination of a team that the league hasn’t seen since O’Neal. He absolutely owned the first half. Then his mortality reared its ugly head. Late in the third quarter he checked out of the game and headed to the locker room. Koby Altman and Damon Jones headed back a moment later.

The entire arena was murmuring. He emerged from the tunnel early in the 4th, but his teammates had extended a 2-point lead to 10 by that point. And as the Pacers made their charge, and you know they would, the man they call King fought through the lactic acid and through the fatigue and through the entire plucky Pacers team to secure the series win. He carried his teammates through 27 quarters of this series. It was only right they chipped in during the 28th. LeBron finished the game with 45 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. And I’m not even sure where it falls on the list of his greatest postseason achievements.

The Cavs will play the Toronto Raptors in the eastern conference semifinals. It’s a clean slate for everyone. It’s a new set of matchups, a new game plan and likely a new-ish rotation. It may even be a new starting lineup. Lue started 5 guys Sunday who hadn’t started a game together all season. In a Game 7.

That’s the kind of year it’s been for the Cavaliers. There have been trades and injuries and mental health issues and soup and Kardashians and closed-door meetings and more trades and two head coaches and myriad insane distractions. And through it all, there’s been James. He played 82 games in the regular season. He played 44 minutes on Sunday afternoon. This King wouldn't let cramps dethrone him, and he sure as hell wasn't going to let the Pacers dethrone him.