LeBron James was one assist shy of a triple-double on Sunday night, dropping 35 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and reach his eighth consecutive NBA Finals.
From head coach Brad Stevens to Al Horford to Tatum and Rozier and Brown, the Celtics, especially the young players, gained invaluable experience to take with them into next season when they will be the hunted, and more likely than not, the favorite to win the conference.
Stevens was still clearly in awe of James, who will now play in his eight straight NBA Finals.
Tatum's signature moment in the game was a driving dunk over James that cut the Cavs lead to 71-69 with 6:41 to play in the game.
The Cavaliers were without the services of All-Star forward Kevin Love, who missed Sunday's Game 7 after being placed in the NBA's concussion protocol following a nasty head-to-head collision with Jayson Tatum in Friday night's contest at The Q. The 33-year-old is in his 15th National Basketball Association season and has won three championships - the first two with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013 and the third with the Cavaliers in 2016. "So just to be in my first year, to be able to compete against a player like him and be a few shots away from beating him and his team to go to the championship, that's something I'll always remember".
In the first close game of the series - and the lowest-scoring - James played all 48 minutes and had 12 of his points in the fourth quarter for his sixth straight Game 7 win. They specialized in bricking quick-trigger 3-pointers, made 5-of-20 shots and saw the Cavs settle into somewhat of a comfort zone on offense.
And James is 4-for-4 in trips to The NBA Finals since returning to the Cavs in the summer of 2014.
"I know I get a lot of the headlines but in order to be successful it's a team game, I learnt that". "The fact that he can put on a uniform every day and do the things that he does out on the floor", James said. This journey, no matter how Game 7 unfolds, has been unlike any of his others. "For the most part, I thought we were pretty good at that. but he still scored 35".
Out to their most dominating start of the playoffs, the Celtics took the first two games of this series and had LeBron looking behind him trying to see if help was on the way. "It's ridiculous and he does it with the pressure and scrutiny". I just know he's built for stardom; he's built for success.
Terry Rozier has had an eyebrow-raising postseason after being given the keys to the starting point guard position, but he picked the absolute-worst time to have a nightmare shooting outing for the Boston Celtics.
This was the year James' finals streak looked over.
The Celtics have had more time to get used to their injuries: Gordon Hayward has been out since the first game of the season, and Kyrie Irving has been sidelined since March. I'm the leader of this team, and I'm going to give what I've got.