With his championship hopes on the line, LeBron James reminded everyone ready to crown the Golden State Warriors NBA champions for a second consecutive year that there is plenty of basketball left in the NBA Finals.
James, who called Wednesday’s pivotal Game Three “do-or-die” for the Cleveland Cavaliers, delivered a virtuoso performance in a 120-90 victory to silence any talk that his team cannot beat the all-conquering Warriors.
His performance marked a stark contrast from the player who struggled in the opening two games of the best-of-seven series, which Cleveland lost by a combined 48 points.
“My team mates got me going. They told me to be aggressive, and that’s what I was,” James, who scored a game-high 32 points, said after his Cavaliers cut the NBA Finals deficit to 2-1.
After James made a sluggish start to his sixth consecutive Finals, critics jumped on his unimpressive 2-4 record in the championship series and wondered how the greatest player of his generation is unable to dominate when a title is on the line.
But James, playing in what could prove to be one of the biggest games of his storied career, came out hard from the start with a much more aggressive style of play.
He helped set the tone early in the game as Cleveland opened up a comfortable 20-point lead but then struggled in the second as Golden State got to within eight points by halftime.
James took over from there, responding with 13 third quarter points, highlighted by an alley-oop he threw down late in the frame that delighted a raucous sellout crowd at Quicken Loans
Arena and all but put a nail in Golden State’s coffin.
After being humiliated in the first two games of the series, the Cavaliers were hoping a return home would provide them the jolt they needed to revive their fading title hopes.
James, when asked to explain the dramatic turnaround in his team’s performance, said the Cavs put little stock into the margin of defeat they suffered on the road.
“At the end of the day, no matter if you lose by 30 or 1, it’s just one win,” said James, whose Cavs host Game Four on Friday.
“And you have to be able to have a short mind but also learn from the mistakes you made the previous game and it’s just try to better yourself the following game.”