After falling to a 2-0 deficit in the Eastern Finals against Boston, very few thought that LeBron James could will this team back to another Finals’ berth. As Cleveland overcame a 12-point deficit in Game 7, I kept thinking to myself how this rag-tag bunch continues to find a way to win.
1. Jayson Tatum and the 2018 Celtics are a special, special bunch.
All year long, when any NBA fan or media member described the Celtics, their go-to line was “the Celtics are playing without their two most important players, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.”
Yet, I always felt it was a major disrespect to what the young core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier was able to accomplish during the postseason.
While LeBron James and the Cavaliers were able to emerge out of the storm victorious, it wasn’t as easy as most of us anticipated. “Scary” Terry, Tatum and Brown are playing beyond their age and continue to validate the system that Brad Stevens has put in place.
In the fourth quarter of Game 7, when Tatum dunked on James and then hit a step-back three-pointer to give the Celtics the lead, I thought the Cavaliers wouldn’t come back from it.
While the Celtics didn’t advance to the Finals in 2018, the post-LeBron Eastern Conference belongs to the Tatum, Brown-led Celtics for the foreseeable future. Celtics’ fans should be enthusiastic with what their basketball team is going to bring.
2. Jeff Green delivers in the two biggest games of his life.
Throughout the season, Jeff Green fell into the “Mario Chalmers” role. The one where the media and fans crush the player for their inconsistent performance, but the team continues to believe in their ability to contribute.
After Kevin Love went down with a concussion, Green’s number was called upon to contribute. In the last two games, the journeyman put up 33 points, 11 rebounds and three assists and came up huge in certain defensive sequences.
When Tatum drilled the three-pointer to give the Celtics a one-point lead in the fourth quarter, it was a Jeff Green corner three-pointer that put the Cavaliers ahead for good. In the first half, while the Cavaliers’ offense sputtered, it was Green’s transition breakaway layups that helped Cleveland get some easy buckets.
As LeBron and Tristan Thompson alluded to post-game, Jeff Green cherishes these moments after basketball was taken away from him a few years ago. Now, without Jeff Green, the Cleveland Cavaliers would not be in the NBA Finals.
3. LeBron James continues to overcome the odds.
Down 2-0 against the Celtics? No problem. Down 3-2 against the Celtics? No worries. No matter what difficult situation the Cavaliers were put in during this series, LeBron James helped overcome it.
In Game 6, James lost his second-best player in Kevin Love and managed to put up 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in 46 minutes of play. While he could barely walk post-game, James managed to play well in a Game 7 just 48 hours later.
Not only did James play well, the King didn’t step off the floor for a single second during the game. In 48 minutes of action, James scored 35 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out nine assists — and it seemed like he wasn’t having an A+ game.
While I’d argue the talent on this roster isn’t as bad as the 2007 team that LeBron took to the NBA Finals, they haven’t had any time to find their on-court chemistry. Yet, when the the Cavaliers had their backs against the wall, head coach Tyronn Lue was able to sprinkle the best pixie dust to make the Cavs successful — LeBron James.
In his 15th season, in the 100th game, James managed to play the full 48 minutes and leave TD Garden with an eighth-straight NBA Finals’ berth. Until another team takes away the Eastern Conference crown away from James, the King stays the King.