LeBron James played one of the best games of his career — one of the best games of anyone’s career, really — in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. He scored 51 points, including 49 in regulation, on 19-of-32 shooting, while adding eight rebounds and eight assists. He dominated the game from start to finish, dragging the Cavs to what was nearly a remarkable upset of the Warriors at Oracle Arena.
And yet the performance might wind up lost to history, thanks to a controversial overturn from the referees, a missed free throw from George Hill’s missed free throw and, most of all, a massive brain fart from J.R. Smith, who attempted to run out the clock in a tie game.
With all that in mind, it was no great surprise Saturday when LeBron called the Game 1 “one of the toughest losses I’ve had in my career.”
LeBron calls Game 1 of the Finals “one of the toughest losses I’ve had in my career,” but says now he’s ready to move forward.
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 2, 2018
LeBron is really saying something here given all the tough losses he has suffered in 15 years (in addition to plenty of wonderful wins). Game 6 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, which drove him from Cleveland the first time. Games 4 through 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals, which made it seem as though LeBron might never win a title. Games 4 through 6 of the 2015 Finals, when the Warriors waved off the Cavs despite LeBron’s heroic performances. Game 3 of the 2017 Finals, when Kevin Durant drilled a 3-pointer over LeBron as Golden State grabbed a 3-0 series lead.
And yet, it’s perfectly reasonable for LeBron to consider Game 1 one of the most frustrating losses of his career — if not the single most frustrating. He gave all he had Thursday and lifted his team to the brink of what would have been an incredible victory, only to watch his teammates piss the game away. Now he has to win four of the next six games against one of the most dominant teams of all-time. It’s no wonder he stormed out of his press conference Thursday.
LeBron emphasized Saturday that he has shaken off the Game 1 loss and was looking ahead to Sunday’s Game 2. He’s got a lot to bounce back from, but if anyone can do it, it’s him.