LeBron James placed a desire for greatness behind an inspirational performance that led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a historic playoff comeback against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.
The Cavs held a 2-0 lead in the first-round series before tip-off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse but had to fight back from a 25-point half-time deficit – a feat never previously achieved in the postseason – to secure a 119-114 victory.
James played the entire second half and finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, but admitted he found it difficult to immediately take stock of his display and compare it to his other dominant playoff performances.
He said: "I can't even sit up here and say I can [compare]. One thing I do know is that we had a huge half-time deficit and were able to come back and win the game.
"I didn't know it was the biggest comeback or things of that nature. For myself, I just try to put myself in position to help my team-mates win no matter who's on the floor with me. Try to empower them, try to make them better, try to make them believe we can be great every night.
"I just don't settle for being not as great as I can be. It's not going to result in a stat line like this every night. When my mind is fresh and in the moment, sometimes certain things like this happen, so I don't know.
"I can't even really appreciate it. I'll let you guys write your words about it and go from there. Only thing that matters is a win, and that's what I'm here for."
The Cavs' comeback was even more remarkable for the face that Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving did not feature at all in the fourth quarter, with James praising the roles played by Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver.
"This is why the team was built this way. Our depth has been challenged this year because of injuries, we haven't been able to get a full dosage of what we can become even with the guys on the floor," said James.
"But our bench definitely got the game ball tonight. Channing, Shump, D-Will, Kyle, those guys came in and gave us huge minutes."
Coach Tyronn Lue praised James after he moved past Kobe Bryant for third on the NBA's all-time playoff scoring list and confessed it was difficult to leave Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love out of the final period.
"LeBron willed us home, 41, 12 and 13, played the whole second half. That's what playoff basketball is all about. You got to be willing to sacrifice and lay it on the line to win a game, and that's what he did for us.
"Every decision you make in the playoffs is difficult. Looking at Kyrie and looking at Kevin, they were like: 'Let them go. They're playing well.'
"I had every intention to keep those guys in as long as they were playing well. Kevin and Kyrie didn't [protest]. That's what playoff basketball is all about. Guys step up and play well, and you just root those guys on.
"After the game they [Irving and Love] were happy and said: 'It's not about us, it's about the team.' Not a big deal at all, especially when you come out with the win."
24. April 2018
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