LeBron James was down on the ground, writhing in pain as he held his leg. There was about 8:30 left in the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers were holding onto a seven-point lead in an elimination game against the Celtics. The Quicken Loans Arena crowd was deafeningly silent. The fear was that the worst had happened.
But like a phoenix that rose from the ashes, James shot up off the ground, or off the canvas these tough-nosed Celtics knocked him onto three times in the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron wasn’t going to let a bit of pain stop him from finishing the job. He was there to see it through to the very end.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are still witnessing history
James played all but two minutes in Game 6 against Boston on Friday, willing his Cavaliers to a 109-99 win at home. He turned in a monumental performance — one for the ages — 46 points on 17-of-33 shooting from the field. Throw 11 rebounds, nine assists and three steals in there for good measure, too. It was the game he absolutely had to have for Cleveland to survive a resilient Boston team, though one with ridiculous misfortune on the road, and force a deciding Game 7 on Sunday.
After James rose up from the hardwood, he pushed his body to play through the pain. He missed his first attempt, but Larry Nance Jr. has pogo sticks for legs and elevated to follow through on The King’s miss.
The second go-round, James went through Terry Rozier and finished off the glass.
But these Celtics never quit. They keep fighting, much like James, until the very end. So his average superhuman performance wasn’t going to cut it this time. He had to shift it into overdrive.
Boston cut Cleveland’s lead to seven with fewer than two minutes left in the game. James answered from his favorite spot on the floor.
And after the Celtics answered on their next possession, James trotted back court, got back to his favorite spot, and hit the dagger step-back three, again.
And to put the nail in the coffin — or to stop the Celtics from slamming the casket shut — James drove right through Jaylen Brown to finish off the glass, plus the foul.
All that after holding his knee in pain on the floor. All that after falling down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. And all that to push his Cavaliers to a 10-point win to avoid elimination and force a sudden death Game 7 in Boston.
There’s no telling which way this series turns. The Celtics are a completely different animal at home, but they’re young, relatively inexperienced and have never played under this type of pressure. The Cavaliers haven’t won at the TD Garden yet in this series.
But Cleveland has LeBron James. He is the difference. And after he powered through pain in Game 6, you can be sure he’s going to give everything he’s got with a trip to the Finals hanging in the balance.