LeBron James has been nothing short of amazing in his first postseason appearance with the Los Angeles Lakers. Through 15 games, James has averaged 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists 1.3 steals and a block per game, all while averaging the fewest minutes per game he’s averaged in his extensive playoff career (35 minutes).
In the fourth quarter of Game 5, the Nuggets cut the deficit between them and the Lakers to just two points after they trailed by as much as 16 points in the first half. As tired and banged up as the Lakers were, they needed one last push to create some separation, and James gave it to them in the form of 16 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting from the field.
The floor was his and his alone, just like how he wanted it to be.
“He told us it was his time,” Anthony Davis said of James. “They was making a push late in the third and cut it to two and we didn’t really start off in the fourth quarter, didn’t close the third quarter how we wanted to and we didn’t start off good in that fourth. He just took over. He told us it was his time. He told me it was his time.
“You know, he kind of just — everybody just kind of got out of the way and let him be him. He brought it home for us. He’s always capable of doing that. He makes the right plays and makes the right reads, and tonight, you know, the read for him was to get to the basket and finish or make a play, and all of them were good reads and he carried us tonight to get to this point.”
James has had games like Saturday before — it’s why he’s made the Finals 10 times, something only three other players in NBA history have done. But in his 17th season, it seems even more unreal. Even James’ coach, Frank Vogel, couldn’t believe the Herculean effort he saw from James down the stretch.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed a guy take over the game the way he did in the fourth quarter tonight in person,” Vogel said. “It was remarkable. Doing what he’s doing on the defensive end is always — last game, too. He takes the assignment of guarding their hottest player, wins that game for us. Obviously, taking over down the stretch, possession after possession after possession of big shots, big plays. Just a remarkable performance.”
James’ teammates weren’t nearly as surprised as Vogel — they’ve seen it in spurts all season long. That doesn’t mean they found it any less impressive, though. If anything, seeing James take over for an entire quarter inspired confidence in his team.
“Once LeBron starts making outside shots late in the game, I kind of know that it’s over for the other team,” Alex Caruso said. “Just because I know we’re going to stop eventually. We’re going to make enough plays down the stretch to get the game under control.
“I mean, when you have a guy like that, what else are you going to do? Just give him the ball and let him be himself, and that’s kind of what we did. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play for a reason.”
James might not be The King forever, but for now, he sits just as tall on the thrown as he used to.
“He’s a special guy, man,” Danny Green said. “Time and time again, you have to remind people — he has to remind people — that forget that he’s the greatest player in the god damn world going on 17 years. It’s crazy, but it just shows you what he’s capable of.”
“Obviously he doesn’t do it as much as he used to do it ... but he’s very capable — at any given time, any moment — of taking over a game, and he did it tonight. He closed out that game and close out the series for us and made sure we were coming out tonight with a W.”
Except to see more of those stretches from James in the NBA Finals.