Since 2010, there has not been any NBA Finals played without LeBron James. But first, forget about the Cleveland Cavaliers making the Finals of the Eastern Conference.
James and his Cavs struggled against the Indiana Pacers in the East’s best-of-seven first round series, needing a Game 7 to forge another first-to-win-four series with Conference’s no. 1 team Toronto, which, in turn, ousted Washington, 4-2, in their separate showdown.
In the other side of the Eastern division semifinal round, it will be Philadelphia versus Boson after the Sixers made mincemeat of Miami, 4-1, and the Celtics, like the Cavs, outlasted Milwaukee, 4-3.
Game 7 in the Eastern Conference was made possible after the Cavs and James were beaten black and blue by the Pacers and Victor Oladipo by 34 points, 121-87, in Game 6 Friday last week.
The LeBron-led Cavs found ways to stop Oladipo and the Pacers in the winner-take-all encounter Sunday but whether they can do the same to the red-hot Raptors is the sixty-four dollar question that needs to be answered.
LeBron James found himself in a unique situation playing a game 7 of a first-round playoff series for the first time in his career.
The Cavs made the Finals in each of the past three seasons, but a winner-take-all game and a potential showdown with a rested top-seed Raptors side —befo re even potentially qualifying for the Eastern Conference Finals, no less—won’t make things easy on them.
James has played alongside a superstar star like Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving in recent years. This year though no one seem capable to h elp take the pressure off him. He doesn’t have that this season, and it’s negatively impacted the team.
Despite James’ in the line up, Cavs have looked mediocre this year, causing many to speculate about the supposedly best player on earth nowadays potentially leaving the team to pursue free agency over the summer.
He has the option to opt out of the final year of his contract if he wishes to, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he elects to do that. He was asked by ESPN about that possibility after Friday’s loss. He didn’t rule this out.
“The thought that if we don’t play well that it will be my last game of the year will probably hit my mind,” James said. “But I haven’t thought about that.”
Indeed, it’s hard to believe that James hasn’t thought about what he plans to do in the future. Right now his main focus is on advancing to the Finals. It’s possible, too, that he’s watching other teams in the postseason a bit more closely than in years past.