LeBron James has been brilliant these playoffs, certainly the greatest playoff run in recent memory and one of the greatest of all-time.
In fact, he’s been so good we even looked at one of his performances, a triple-double in Game 4 of Cleveland’s opening-round series against the Pacers, and compared it to his greatest postseason games ever .
But the greatest player in the world is allowed a stinker every couple of years, and boy did he have one Sunday in Boston’s shocking 111-108 victory at Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals — just when all the eulogies were being written for the Celtics.
Boston closed the series gap to 2-1 and yet nobody believes it has a chance to pull off the upset, and rightfully so, especially now that James has the one game in which he played like a mere mortal this series out of the way.
James entered Sunday’s game averaging 34.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.8 steals while shooting 56.9 percent from the floor during the postseason in which the Cavs were 10-0. He had scored at least 30 points in eight straight games.
Which makes Sunday’s 11-point, 6-turnover game in which he shot 4-of-13 such a stunner.
“I had a tough game, period,” he said following the game and following a postgame incident in which he challenged a fan that heckled him about the performance.
“Not just in the second half. Me, personally, I didn’t have it. My teammates did a great job of keeping us in the game, building that lead. But me, personally, I didn’t have it. That’s all I’ve got to say about my performance.”
But was this worst postseason game of the 210 LeBron has played? And where does it rank among his postseason clunkers as a member of the Heat?
We take a look:
James averaged 26.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists while shooting 50.3 percent in the 87 postseason games he played with the Heat from 2011 to 2014. Among those, though, were his two lowest-scoring playoff games.
The performance for which James drew the most criticism while in Miami was in Game 4 of the 2011 Finals. The Heat were leading the Mavericks 2-1 and a win in Dallas likely would have assured Miami of a title in the first year of the Big Three era. But James, who had not played well in the previous two games, was a no show. He scored just eight points, his career playoff low at the time, on 3-of-11 shooting and added four turnovers, allowing the momentum in the series to completely shift. Dallas went on to win three in a row and the series in six games.
But that was not James’ worst playoff performance in Miami. In his final season in Miami, the Heat were looking to eliminate the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals in Game 5 when James, who had averaged 26.3 points on 59.2 percent shooting in the first four games of the series, came up with an inexplicable performance, much like Sunday’s. He scored seven points, which stands as his career playoff low, on 2-of-10 shooting and had four turnovers as he battled foul trouble. He played just 24 minutes. The Heat, though, won Game 6 but then lost to the Spurs in the Finals in five games in what would be James’ final playoff series with the Heat.
But none of these — Sunday against the Celtics or his two forgettable games with the Heat — were the worst of his career. That came in Game 1 of Cleveland’s 2008 second-round series with the Celtics. (James has quite a history with Boston in the postseason both good and bad.) James started that series with the worst shooting performance, 2-of-18, and the most turnovers, 10, of his postseason career. He finished with 10 points. Cleveland lost the first two games of the series and eventually lost the series in 7 as the Celtics went on to win the title.