There was a point late in the second half that the game seemed to be Boston’s to lose.
Celtics rookie phenom Jayson Tatum had been all over the court for the entire game, drilling threes, pogoing for rebounds, being generally long and active and young. But it was a straight-line drive, the simplest of all basketball plays, that seemed to set up a potential changing-of-the-East guard narrative:
What an absolute yammer of a dunk for Tatum, a glimpse at the bright future ahead for Boston, and a few seconds later Tatum drilled a deep shot to put Boston up 72-71. But then, it didn’t matter, because LeBron had been doing LeBron things all night (35 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists), including this highlight rejection on Terry Rozier:
But it was after Tatum’s personal run that the Cavs really bore down. Jeff Green (19 points!) drilled a three. LeBron set up Thompson for a dunk, George Hill for a jumper, and got to the line multiple times for free throws But it was this play that essentially sealed it, robbing Boston of whatever hope they had:
Marcus Morris was literally trying to tackle LeBron to prevent a layup and the shot still went in. But in addition to Morris, it may as well have been the entire Cavs organization hanging on his shoulders, maybe even the whole city of Cleveland, and as LeBron managed to do throughout the playoffs, he was more than up to the challenge of carrying the load.
Cleveland is probably going to get destroyed by either Houston or Golden State now, but no offense to Boston, it’s going to be a lot more interesting to watch LeBron attack those teams than it would be to lose LeBron now. (Also, hey, the Pacers ended up being the biggest test for Cleveland; they played a closer Game 7 and they were facing Kevin Love.)
What a win for LeBron. It’s a team game, sure, but there’s no other player in the NBA who, if dropped into LeBron’s role tonight, could have produced that kind of win. (Maybe any kind of win.) Eight in a row.
We might not see that again.