After recording the 21st triple-double of his postseason career and orchestrating a 14-point comeback to steal Game 1 of the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Raptors 113-112 in overtime Tuesday, LeBron James credited the rest of the Cavs for carrying him in the win.
“My teammates were unbelievable tonight,” James said after putting up 26 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks in 47 minutes. “They stepped up when I wasn’t at my best.”
Where James faltered was with his shooting accuracy. He shot 12-for-30 from the field (including 1-for-8 from 3) and 1-for-6 from the foul line and packed most of his misses into crunch time, shooting just 3-for-15 in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
The 12 missed shots are the most James has ever had in the fourth quarter or overtime of a playoff game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
“I definitely wasn’t as efficient as I would like to be,” James said. “I missed a lot of open looks, a lot of open 3s that they were going under. A lot of floaters in the lane. Because of the injury I had in Game 7, I didn’t have the opportunity to get on the court this morning and [Monday] as well, so, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is to try to get a win.”James later characterized Game 1 against Toronto as, “probably one of my worst games of the season.”
That Cleveland got the win in light of James’ off night shooting was in stark contrast to the Cavs’ seven-game series in the first round against the Indiana Pacers, when it took James averaging 41.8 points in the four wins to advance to the next round.
The matchup against the Pacers was the 42nd playoff series of James’ career and the first he had ever won without having a single teammate score 20 points or more in any of the games. That changed in Game 1 of his 43rd playoff series, as JR Smith scored 20 points Tuesday and three more Cavs players other than James reached double digits in Kyle Korver (19), Jeff Green (16) and Tristan Thompson (14).
The Cavs’ supporting cast also made up for Kevin Love, whose playoff woes continued with a seven-point night on 3-for-13 shooting.
“We’ve just got to keep chipping in as much as we can. He can’t play Superman every night,” Smith said of James. “He had some good looks, they just didn’t fall. Kyle hit a big shot, Kev hit shots. It’s our job to pick him up.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue also credited his team’s balanced attack.
“It means a lot to have five guys in double figures,” Lue said. “Kevin and ‘Bron shooting 15-for-43, our two All-Stars. It just shows you that guys stepped up and played well. JR [goes] 5-for-6 from 3, a big 3 in front of their bench [in overtime]. Guys got to continue to keep stepping up. That’s what the playoffs are all about.”
Still, James had a tremendous impact by his mere presence. In the six minutes he rested, the Cavs shot just 2-for-13 as a team (15 percent), as opposed to 28-for-59 (48 percent) when he was in there, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.
Cleveland’s offense generated only one open look when James was out of the game — defined by a shot taken with no defender within five feet at the time of the attempt — and 17 open looks when he was on the floor. Furthermore, Cavs players shot 13-for-25 (52 percent) off passes from James.
Korver was asked if it was ever discussed among his teammates how James was taking on a disproportionate amount of the playmaking duties this postseason.
“You know, this is how we play,” Korver said. “LeBron has the ball and we play off of him. All right? We have to do a better job of — when we kind of bog down is when the ball stops moving and bodies stop moving. As long as we do that, we usually find some shots and some looks.
“So, we got to help him out, right? He’s playing a ton of minutes. He carries a big load. But this is how we play and it’s not going to change.”
James made sure to share his appreciation.
“I mean they were phenomenal, man,” he said. “Kev kind of struggled in the first half and Jeff picked him up. And then Kyle had his second half, Kev came back and had an unbelievable second half. He was just a monster on the glass. JR was consistent all game with his ability to shoot the ball. And Double T, once again, he just picked up right where he left off from Game 7 — just being a monster that we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years on the glass. Making his free throws and giving us extra possessions.
“So, it was an all-around team win for us. Everybody contributed tonight, and we definitely needed it.”