Probably the highest praise to give LeBron James is that his 44-point game tonight wasn’t even all that exhilarating, particularly when it didn’t come packaged with quite as many boards and assists (five and three) as his previous five 40-point outings this postseason. The Cavaliers’ 111-102 defeat of the Celtics to knot the Eastern Conference Finals at two games each wasn’t their best game, and Boston outscored Cleveland 49-43 in the second half. But it was flavored with just enough top-quality LeBron highlights to still be memorable.
The play of the night came in large part from an otherwise pretty irrelevant Kevin Love (3-for-12 from the floor), as he chucked a first-quarter Hail Mary pass over two Celtics defenders and into the waiting hands of LeBron, who did his best Calvin Johnson impression before finishing the score.
James spent much of the night showing off his strength by repeatedly driving to the rim against lesser defenders. He made 17-of-28 shots from the field and became the all-time leader in playoff field goals made. Marcus Morris, who got some credit as a mythical “LeBron stopper” when the series was in Boston, was one of James’s most unfortunate victims tonight.
And although the Cavs got sloppy after a 68-point first half, their lead stayed consistently on the edge of double digits thanks to LeBron’s determination.
Sometimes, it really does feel like LeBron can just decide how many points he’s going to get in a night, then go do it. He’s become a master of efficiency at the age of 33, never expending energy on an already decided game that could be better used in a closer matchup down the line. Tonight’s performance against the Celtics lacked the fireworks associated with a more traditionally mind-blowing LeBron game. But that doesn’t make him any less impressive.