LeBron James had a majestic performance on Thursday to put the Cleveland Cavaliers on the brink of a maiden title and keep the Golden State Warriors from celebrating an NBA championship on his home court for a second straight year.
James finished with a game-high 41 points and 11 assists in a 115-101 victory that forced a Game Seven decider in the Finals and put one of the greatest players of his generation on the cusp of a third championship.
“I give a lot of credit to my team mates and my coaching staff to put me in position to be successful,” James told reporters after the Cavaliers became only the third team to rally back from a 3-1 Finals deficit.
“I mean, without the ball moving, without the screens being set, without the coaching staff putting out the game plans for us offensively then, what I’ve been able to do, it doesn’t happen. So those guys definitely get the credit.”
While James most definitely had help from his team mates, he showed a refuse-to-lose attitude right from the opening tip of a wire-to-wire victory in which the Cavaliers led by as many as 24 points.
James has faced criticism in the past for failing to deliver his best when it counts the most, but on Thursday he was in top form both in offense and defense.
He added eight rebounds and four steals, outplaying two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, who fouled out of the game and was ejected late in the contest.
“It’s LeBron being LeBron,” said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.
“He’s one of the greatest of all time. Our back was against the wall and he took it upon himself in the last couple of games, himself and Kyrie (Irving), to really put this team on their backs and really get us to where we’re trying to get to and that’s a Game Seven in Golden State.”
James stressed the importance of playing top-level defense, especially against a Warriors team with a high-octane offense.
The Warriors showed how quickly they can turn a game after falling 24 points behind in the third quarter.
They settled into a rhythm to close out the quarter on a 10-0 run and pulled within nine points.
“Our antennas have to be up throughout the course of a 48-minute game on every possession, because as soon as you make a mistake, they get a three here, they get a slip to the rim here,” said James.
“They get offensive rebound and everyone’s in the paint and they seek out to the perimeter for extra threes.
“So our antennas just have to be up, and I think it’s been there, not every game, not as well as we’d all like, but the last few games our antennas have been razor sharp.”