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How the East Was Won (Again) – Cavaliers-Celtics, Eastern Conference Finals; Game 7

Robert Cole/ALOST

 

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

BOSTON — Every second that LeBron James played in tonight’s do-or-die Game 7 felt like a minute, and every minute that ticked off the clock feeling more like another chapter written than a page in the storied career of one of the all-time greats of the game of basketball. After 48 minutes of ceaseless dominance and indomitable will, LeBron James finished another book in the volume that will tell the story of how he led another team, in near-stupefying succession, to another chance at playing to attain basketball immortality.

The impossible of defeating the storied Boston Celtics franchise at home in a Game 7 became reality, with James slaying the Boston Garden ghosts that surely circled over his head to the tune of 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists in leading the Cavaliers to an 87-79 victory to advance to his eight consecutive NBA Finals appearance and Cleveland’s fourth consecutive Finals appearance.

Time will eventually tell where his performance in LeBron’s personal pantheon of Herculean feats, but his latest labors conquered included having to a) perform without fellow All-Star Kevin Love, who suffered a concussion early in the first quarter of Game 6, b) defeat the Celtics at home, where the 2018 edition was 10-0 at home this postseason and the franchise a perfect 37-0 in best-of-seven series in which it took a 2-0 lead, and c) play every second of the 48 minutes against Boston, not risking a momentary lull in the team’s game without him on the floor and costing Cleveland another chance at playing for the title.

That three-headed monster, like the mythical Cerberus in Hercules’ final labor, was slain by the person whose accomplishments on the hardwood battlefield since 2003 resemble that of a mythical god than a 33-year-old made of flesh, blood and Nike sneakers. In a season where half the roster was turned around in a flurry of trade-deadline moves just three months ago, and in a playoff run which was perilously close to ending in the first round for the first time in his career, LeBron’s 100th game of the season – as well as the Cavaliers’ 100th of the season – felt like another labor in this arduous journey toward the golden fleece in the form of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“Well, it’s now six [seasons]. It was five, now it’s six. It’s now six seasons in one,” said James in the postgame press conference. “I guess this is the last chapter for our team in this season. It’s been a whirlwind…It’s been good, it’s been bad, it’s been roses. There have been thorns in the roses. There’s been everything that you can ask for.”

Ever since James singlehandedly carried the 2007 Cavaliers, a team that lacked a true star outside of No. 23, to the NBA Finals with his 25-consecutive-team-points masterpiece against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, the challenges getting back to – and winning in – the Finals have continued to increase, at times being too much to overcome. Every season is different, but this year’s challenges, according to James, might have brought the most difficulty in getting back to his now rightful place in playing basketball in the month of June.

“I’ve said this has been one of the most challenging seasons I’ve had,” James said. “But like I told you guys, you guys are around us every day, right before the break, right before the trade deadline, I kind of reset. Didn’t know if we were going to make trades or not. Didn’t know what we were going to do with our team. But I just kind of reset my mindset and said, OK, this is the season and let’s try to make the most of it. That’s what’s gotten me to this point, gotten our team to this point.”

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