- LeBron James produced an incredible effort on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference first round, playing the first 35 minutes – and 43 minutes overall – to help the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Indiana Pacers.
- After the game, James said his effort was “what the doctor ordered” but added that he was “burnt” and too tired to think of the Cavs’ next series.
- It may be alarming to some that James needed to expend so much energy just to get the Cavs out of the first round of the playoffs.
LeBron James is human, even if it doesn’t look like it sometimes.
On Sunday, with the Cleveland Cavaliers facing elimination in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference first round against the Indiana Pacers, James added another chapter to his legacy, scoring 45 points on 14-of-25 shooting and adding nine rebounds, seven assists, and four steals to help the Cavs get the win.
James was attempting to go the distance too, playing the entire first half, then nearly all of the third quarter before he was forced out momentarily with what ESPN’s Doris Burke said were cramps.
He sat out for the first three minutes and 35 seconds of the fourth quarter before checking back in to finish the game.
Cameras caught him saying he was going to play the whole game.
"Whole game … I'm playing the whole game."
LeBron hasn't left the floor. pic.twitter.com/TxYLNTCoPK
— ESPN (@espn) April 29, 2018
Such effort is borderline unheard of from a 33-year-old in his 15th season. Adding to the significance is that James played all 82 games this season for the first time in his career, playing more total minutes than anyone else in the league.
It’s a ton of mileage for a player who seems primed to burst through the record for most minutes played.
But lest one think he’s immune to it, James showed his mortality after Sunday’s game.
When asked about the upcoming second-round matchup with the Toronto Raptors, James responded bluntly: “I’m burnt right now. I’m not thinking about Toronto right now until tomorrow. I’m ready to go home. I’m tired. I want to go home.”
LeBron can run out of gas sometimes ???? pic.twitter.com/IbQY0b1ofx
— ESPN (@espn) April 29, 2018
James averaged 41 minutes per game in the first round against the Pacers and 41 points per game in each of the Cavs’ four wins.
He has never been tested like that in the first round. That it took such efforts just to beat the fifth-seeded Pacers should raise alarm bells about the Cavs’ playoff chances.
James was again blunt when describing his performance.
“I guess, in a sense, I had to do what I had to do to help us win,” he said, adding: “That’s what the doctor called for, and I had to go out and try to make plays, and I did that.”
His teammates were appreciative of his effort.
“For a seven-game series, to play with the output, just the energy that it took to play seven games that hard, it’s unbelievable,” Kyle Korver said of James. “He’s not just playing minutes – he’s got the ball in his hand almost every possession. He’s playing great defence. He’s getting rebounds. He’s controlling the whole game.
“Allen Iverson used to say, ‘You know how hard it is to shoot 30 shots a game? You know how much energy it takes to shoot 30 shots a game?’ And it’s true. A lot of us don’t understand that to create that many shots takes a lot of energy. Bron’s doing that, plus he’s doing so many other things. I don’t think he’s appreciated enough for just how much energy he puts into every single game to do what he does.”
The test was only just beginning for James and the Cavs, who will take on the top-seeded Raptors – without home-court advantage – in the next round. If they can get past Toronto, they will face either the Boston Celtics or the cruising Philadelphia 76ers also without home-court advantage.
James looks likely to have to dip into the reserves once again in the coming series.
More NBA playoffs coverage:
- LeBron James is being tested like never before in the playoffs, and the biggest question in the NBA hangs over it
- Victor Oladipo’s meaningless buzzer-beater at the end of Game 7 cost Las Vegas over $US3 million
- Shaquille O’Neal baffled the ‘Inside the NBA’ crew while attempting to help Kenny Smith save money on gas
- The Thunder took a gamble on a one-year superteam that came up short and now faces one of the biggest decisions in the NBA
- Steve Kerr compared Manu Ginobili to Roger Federer and gave him a simple reason to continue his legendary career
- How LeBron James and Lance Stephenson formed one of the oddest and most entertaining rivalries in the NBA
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