Just in Case Anyone Forgot, LeBron is Reminding Us He’s Great
LeBron James is in the midst of one of the greatest playoff performances in the modern era of the NBA. Through eight games – which included back-to-back sweeps of the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors – James is averaging 34.4 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, 2.1 steals per game, and 1.5 blocks per game, all of which rank in the top three among players still playing in this year’s postseason. To state the obvious, LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers are dominating the postseason so far.
Perhaps what is most impressive is the efficiency that James exhibited during the first two rounds. First, he is shooting over 50% from the field. The King is also hitting 47% from three-point land nearly six three-point attempts per game, both of which are career playoff highs.
What doesn’t show up in the numbers is James’ impact on defense. He is a floor general who relies on his experience to direct his teammates as if he were playing a game of chess. This isn’t news, but he can guard a team’s best perimeter player and mix it up in the post with big men. Combine this with the kind of knowledge that comes with playing in 6 straight championships and LeBron James becomes a one man wrecking crew.
It seems that James is right in the sweet spot of his career, enjoying the perfect mix of athleticism and experience. This is his 14th season in the NBA, so LeBron has just about seen it all. He prepares as well as anyone in the league and he’s ready for what opponents will do on offense and defense. Still, even after 14 seasons and 1,268 games, he has retained his explosiveness and ability to both get past guys and keep ball handlers in front of him. After the Cavs second round sweep of the Toronto Raptors, Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan was quoted as saying, “[James] seems a lot faster and quicker this year from last. It’s incredible for someone with that amount of mileage to be able to come back seeming faster and quicker.”
The Cavaliers, and LeBron, showed disinterest during the regular season. They ended the regular season by going 10-14 in the months of March and April. Everyone knew the Cavs were primarily focused on the playoffs, and the team’s play in their first eight playoff games shows that. LeBron James is focused on winning a championship and further cementing his legacy as one of the greatest NBA players of all time. “He wants to go down as the greatest ever and he’s focused on that every day,” teammate Kyle Korver said after the team’s playoff series with the Raptors. “It’s amazing,” Korver added, “The level of focus and intensity he puts into his daily habits is something that I don’t think people understand how hard it is to do.”
With a motivated and focused LeBron James, the Cavaliers look nearly unbeatable heading into their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Boston Celtics. Many are predicting the Cavs to easily take the series. LeBron is a matchup nightmare on both ends of the floor, especially for the Celtics whose best defender is the 6’2’’ guard Avery Bradley. Expect him to wreak havoc during the series, and for Kyrie Irving and co. to step up when Boston tries to focus on stopping James.
By the way, if you forgot like I did, the Celtics are the one seed. I reiterate; as the one seed, Boston will be lucky just to pull one game out in this series. Think about the layers of that. LeBron James is dominant enough to essentially coast through an entire regular season, then win the first two series of the playoffs via sweep, and then be favored in an Eastern Conference Finals meeting with the top seeded team. If you don’t think that says everything about the greatness of LeBron James, then maybe your name is Skip Bayless.
Stats and info courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, NBA.com, Foxsports.com, and NYTimes.com