LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a historic playoff win Thursday night, overcoming a 25-point halftime deficit – the largest in NBA playoff history – to beat the Pacers, 119-114, in Indiana. James finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists and two blocks, as Cleveland now leads the series 3-0.
“Last night, 14 years in, first-round playoff game, we walked away saying, ‘That’s a top-five performance he ever put up in the playoffs,’” ESPN reporter Dave McMenamin said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He’s still doing it. He’s still giving his all, and he loves the game. There’s nothing he’d rather be doing at this stage of his live.”
Cleveland trailed 74-49 at halftime but outscored the Pacers 70-40 thereafter.
“Whenever you see some sort of switch in the score like that, it’s going to be both teams contributing,” ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst said. “The Pacers played really out of their minds in the first half, hit everything and everything went their way. In the second half, they missed a lot of open shots. They really tightened up. But over LeBron’s career, there’s been a dozen or so times where he’s been able to take an awkward lineup and lead them. Last night was a real reminder. That unit that played together for the Cavs in that comeback had only played together for nine minutes the entire season and not at all in this playoff series. So that’s definitely something LeBron has within his capability of doing, finding a lineup where he can figure out how to make things work, but I don’t think it’s something that they’re going to do regularly n the postseason.”
Windhorst and McMenamin, co-authors of “Return of the King: LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Greatest Comeback in NBA History,” also weighed in on James’ return to Cleveland and the current state of the Cavs. James and owner Dan Gilbert have co-existed for the last three years in large part because they have a mutually beneficial relationship.
“It’s an arranged marriage,” McMenamin said. “They both had a mutual goal of bringing a championship to Northeast Ohio. Dan Gilbert (wanted) to replicate the success of the Detroit Pistons, a team that he grew up cheering for as a Detroit native, and LeBron (hoped) to finally break that curse, which he was able to accomplish. Now the remarkable thing about this is when they initially started to see if they cuold cross that bridge again that had seemingly been blow-torched by The Decision and Dan Gilbert’s reaction to it, that was one of the first steps that had to be taken care of. Can Dan and LeBron work together?”
James and Gilbert met in 2014 to discuss a possible return to Cleveland.
“They spent maybe 15 minutes, both of them apologizing and clearing the air for what went down when LeBron left,” McMenamin said. “The rest of that three-hour meeting was getting down to the nitty-gritty and can this actually work? Can we actually put together a championship team if LeBron comes back to Cleveland? Clearly that’s happened, and they’re still in championship contention as they move forward.”
Game 4 is Sunday in Indiana at 1 p.m. ET. If victorious, the Cavs will face the winner of Toronto/Milwaukee in the second round. The Bucks lead that series 2-1.