LeBron: ‘I’m feeling it right now, for sure.’ 

click to enlarge Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates after the final buzzer sounded in overtime of Game 2, giving the Cavs a 95-93 victory over the Warriors that evens the Finals. The Cavaliers and Warriors will travel to Cleveland to play in Game 3 on Tuesday. - BEN MARGOT/AP
  • Ben Margot/ap
  • Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates after the final buzzer sounded in overtime of Game 2, giving the Cavs a 95-93 victory over the Warriors that evens the Finals. The Cavaliers and Warriors will travel to Cleveland to play in Game 3 on Tuesday.

OAKLAND — LeBron James, an ice pack already taped onto his back, wedged the lower half of his enormous frame into a makeshift ice bath in the visitors' locker room, a garbage can filled with ice water. He was set up next to teammate Matthew Dellavedova, who sat himself in a matching can of slate gray, and Dellavedova snapped a selfie of the two of them for posterity, no doubt recognizing that the man sitting next to him had just willed his way to one of the greatest victories of his career.

Just the other day, James had said it would be difficult to imagine playing more than 42 minutes in a playoff game, given the intensity of the moment. But Sunday night, in Cleveland's 95-93 overtime victory over the Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals — the first Finals victory in the often-ignominious franchise history of James's hometown team — James was on the floor for 50 minutes, a number he'd reached in a playoff game only four other times, most recently in 2013 against the San Antonio Spurs, well before he was on the other side of age 30.

These playoffs have already seen him harried and hacked and knocked to the ground, but he keeps getting up, keeps taking shots. Sunday night, he was 11-of-34 from the field for 39 points, and he missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation, and he absorbed several potentially uncalled fouls during overtime. Yet he keeps filling up the stat sheets in ways that seem almost unfathomable (through the first two games of this series, he's averaging 41.5 points, 12 rebounds and 8.5 assists).

"Did you see how I walked in here?" James said, after limping into the postgame interview room at Oracle Arena. "I'm feeling it. I'm feeling it right now, for sure. I'll get rehab on the plane. Round-the-clock treatment tomorrow. We're without two All-Stars, I don't know any other team in this league that would be able to do that and be a force. The guys are taking that (the notion of being counted out of the series) very personal."

All due respect to Dellavedova and James's motley cast of remaining teammates, but the only reason the Cavs are still alive in this series is James. The entire Cleveland offense filtered through him, time after time. It isn't his preference to take 34 shots in a game, but it was clear that he's playing with a chip on his shoulder, with a sense that the Cavs have been counted out after Kyrie Irving's injury, and buoyed by the obvious notion that he's Cleveland's only hope to end a 50-year championship drought. The other day, a questioner implied that James had been "allowed" to score 40 points in Game 1 because the Warriors didn't double-team much, a slight that hadn't slipped from James's mind last night.

"I was knocking on the 40 door again, they let me score 40 again," he said. "I'm not a high-volume shooter, I never have been in my career, but things have changed on our team. Am I going to be in the 30s (shot-wise) every game? I'm not sure. I would not like to, but if that's going to help us win, I don't have a choice. The good thing about tonight, I took 34 shots, but I had 11 assists."

"Geez, you'd be hard pressed to find a guy anywhere, anytime I can think of a name or two, but that's the whole history of basketball that can give you the kind of allaround performance and allaround leadership that LeBron does for his group," said Cavaliers coach David Blatt. "He really willed his guys to win that game."

Now the series shifts to Cleveland, and James spent the final minutes of his press conference attempting to rile Cavs fans into new levels of noisiness for Game 3. But in the end, the loudness of the crowd won't mean anything if James can't keep up this level of production. For a long time, he was Cleveland's great hope, and then he left, and then he came back, and now he's Cleveland's only hope.

"I think the game is such a small thing, when you think about the moment and compare it to the moment," James said. "I have a lot of motivation already to just be a part of greatness and be a part of this and a part of this atmosphere. And I have some other motivations that I won't talk about right now."

No doubt, one of those motivations is the notion of winning for his home region, the place where he was born and raised as a prodigy, the place that has looked to him as a potential savior for so long. And so when someone had the audacity if James was capable of playing this many minutes through an entire series, he broke into a smile.

"Am I built for it?" he said. "Well, of course I'm built for it."

About The Author

Michael Weinreb

Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of...

Latest in Golden State Warriors

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation