LeBron James scored 45 points in another magnificent game seven performance Sunday, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers and into the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Facing elimination in the first round for the first time, James was having none of it.
The 33-year-old superstar, who has now reached the second round in all 13 of his playoff appearances, produced his third 40-point game of the series, adding nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals as Cleveland booked a second-round clash with Eastern Conference top seeds Toronto starting on Tuesday.
“I just try to do whatever it takes to help us win. I felt like I wanted to do that again in this series,” said James, who is now 5-2 in game sevens in all rounds of the playoffs.
“There’s nothing like a game seven,” said Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson. “Game seven separates the men from the boys.”
With their season on the line after a humbling 34-point loss in game six, the Cavaliers exploded out of the blocks.
James made his first seven shots and finished the first half with 26 points, five assists and four rebounds.
The Cavs pulled down 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and led by as many as 14 in the second quarter as coach Tyronn Lue switched his starting lineup to include all four of his holdovers from the last three NBA Finals teams: James, Thompson, Kevin Love and JR Smith.
“We started the game with guys that have been in big games before,” said James, but there was no doubt that it was “King James” who ruled.
James became the career playoff leader in steals when he picked off a pass in the second quarter, having entered the contest tied with former Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen (395) atop the all-time post-season list.
James also became the first player to score 20 or more points 200 times in the playoffs.
“He put us on his back,” Lue said. “He did it all for us this series.”