LeBron James might very well be the greatest player in the history of NBA first-round playoff series.
He aims higher, of course, but his place in history in the opening round of the playoffs is pretty well etched, especially after the Cavs’ 106-104 series-clinching win over Indiana Sunday.
The win was the 21st in a row for James’ teams. That’s an NBA record, dating back to when the league expanded to its current 16-team postseason format in 1984.
In 12 seasons, he’s never lost an opening-round series. He’s 48-7 in first-round games, and is averaging 29 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 6.9 assists. He hasn’t lost a game in the first round in five years.
Can it really be this easy?
“Competition is very hard,” James said Sunday, when he was more or less asked that question. “Mentally challenge yourself every year to go out and try to do what’s right, put your body on the line, put your team on the line to try to be successful — is very hard. I go out every night to try and win a ballgame, do whatever it takes to help my teammates be successful and do whatever it takes to help me be successful. That’s been the result of it.
“I’m truly blessed and honored to be in a position where I hold a record in this league that’s had so many great players and so many great teams throughout the years in the postseason.”
For a quick comparison: Michael Jordan’s Bulls lost first-round series his first three trips to the playoffs. He averaged 37 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists in 46 first-round games. The Bulls went 31-15 in those contests, and his longest winning streak in the first round was 11 games.
Against the Pacers, James averaged 32.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.0 assists in an eye-popping 43:44 minutes per game. James pounded out 33 points, 10 boards and four assists in Game 4, including his lone 3-pointer with 1:08 left that put the Cavs ahead for good and stopped the Pacers’ 9-0 run.