Last week, you voted for the best LeBron James performances of all-time. Here is the fourth-best moment, as voted by you, the FtS community.
There are those who will only remember the final outcome of LeBron James's 2014-15 NBA season: the Cavaliers lost to the Warriors in six games in the NBA Finals. Those of us who watched it while hanging on every moment, however, will remember it slightly differently: LeBron was magnificent throughout the playoffs. He put the team on his back time and time again, and carried them further than they had any right to go. We might not see a vintage LeBron performance like that over an entire postseason ever again.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs took a 2-0 lead by winning the first two games in Atlanta. It looked as though the Hawks, who were dealing with injuries, would be little more than a speed bump on the road to the Finals. But for one night, they exhibited all of the heart and grit their fans could have hoped for, and gave the Cavs all they could handle.
In Game 3, Cleveland was without Kevin Love, as they'd been since the end of their first round series against the Celtics, and Kyrie Irving, as they had been for Game 2 against the Hawks. If they were going to take a 3-0 lead, they were probably going to need a pretty big game from LeBron.
Things did not start off well, as LeBron missed his first 10 field goal attempts. Still, the Cavs hung around, thanks in part to Matthew Dellavedova's 14 first-half points, and they only trailed by a point at the half.
While LeBron's struggles were a big part of the story in the first half, even more notable was an incident that took place toward the end of the half. It resulted in the ejection of Al Horford:
In the third quarter, with LeBron starting to heat up and Horford out of the game, the Cavs began to seize control:
They took a five point lead into the fourth quarter. But the night was only just beginning.
In the final period, the Cavs extended their lead to nine points with under eight minutes to go. The Hawks, to their credit, showed no signs of quitting. They went on a quick 11-2 run to tie the game with five minutes left. At the buzzer, Jeff Teague took a three that would have won the game, but he missed it, and the game went into overtime.
In OT, LeBron hit one of the more iconic shots of his storied career (or at least one of the more iconic shots of last season). With 40 seconds left and Atlanta up by two, he drove to the baseline... and missed a contested shot from the edge of the paint. After the shot, he faded backwards, and ended up in the left corner. Tristan Thompson grabbed an offensive rebound over three Hawks in the paint. He immediately kicked it out to an open LeBron, who pump-faked Paul Millsap out of the gym as he desperately tried to close out on him. With Millsap now harmlessly out of the play, LeBron calmly pulled up and drained a three to give the Cavs the lead. They didn't look back.
The Cavs held on to beat the pesky Hawks by a final score of 114-111. After the game, LeBron collapsed temporarily to the floor in exhaustion. Carrying the weight of a team, a franchise, and a city can be taxing.
"He just wouldn't let us lose," David Blatt said afterward.
The Cavs closed out the Hawks two nights later to win the Eastern Conference Finals and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007.
LeBron's final stat line from Game 3: 47 minutes, 14-for-37, 37 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists, and three steals. Not bad for a guy who missed his first 10 shots and didn't score his first point until four minutes into the second quarter.
On that night, the outcome was all that mattered.