LeBron James, playing with a sore leg, dropped 29 points and made crucial defensive plays down the stretch as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated Indiana Pacers 101-97 Sunday for their sixth straight victory after losing the season opener to Chicago Bulls.
James took a knee to the leg Friday against Philadelphia and needed round-the-clock treatment to be fit for Sunday’s game that featured a showdown with fellow superstar, Paul George. The universally-acclaimed “best player on the planet” hit seven free throws in the final few minutes before finding all-star teammate Kevin Love for a few key baskets in the final 27 seconds
“I started off pretty well but I got hit again in the third quarter so it was really, really sore,” the forward said after the victory. “It’s pretty sore right now,” he added.
David Blatt, the second-year Cavs coach, tipped his hat off to his superstar leader. “Most guys probably wouldn’t have played with what he had, and he played, and you saw how he played,” said Blatt. “The guy is unbelievable. He really is. I don’t have a better word than that.” (Watch Blatt’s post-game press conference below).
Pacers coach Frank Vogel simply said, “LeBron is the best player in the game. We all know that.”
James was ably supported by Love, who finished with an impressive tally of 22 points and 19 rebounds.
For the Pacers, George finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Their backcourt tandem of Monta Ellis (25 points) and George Hill (14 points) had decent outings, too.
The Pacers, on the road, didn’t score for four minutes after shooting a 90-88 lead during the fourth quarter. However, George’s late 3-pointer cut the Cavs lead to 97-95 with 18 seconds left.
With 8.2 seconds left, the Cavs broke full-court pressure and James hit Love for a drunk. Hill scored with 6.7 seconds remaining until James made two foul shots to seal the hosts’ victory.
Despite the loss, George was pleased with his team. “I think we match up well against this team (Cavs),” said George. “This team doesn’t really scare us. They had to play a full game against us. It’s on us to get where we want to get to. It’s all about who gets the last laugh when we’re in the NBA Finals or playing against the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals or whoever.”