“It’s good to be the King.”
While perks exist when you’re the head of a monarchy, the immortal line from Mel Brook’s “History of the World, Part I” can’t always feel true when you’re LeBron James.
The Cavs double overtime 135-130 winner over the Pacers in Cleveland on Sunday night would be proof that with nobility comes responsibility.
Earlier in the season, the Cavs had given LeBron easier defensive assignments in hopes of lightening his considerable workload, however, with the playoffs looming he has resumed the task of guarding the opposite team’s best player. When you play the Pacers, this means guarding Paul George.
George made LeBron work all night in a physical matchup and vice versa. He held LeBron, leaned heavily on him and moved around the court often as is customary with his role as playmaker on Indiana. George finished the game with 43 points to LeBron’s 41.
It’s tough to heavily criticize the defensive performance of James on George. The Pacers forward is averaging nearly 27 points-per-game since March 1st.
George also made six threes in the game including shooting roughly 66% from the outside in the final overtime.
It was one of the double OT threes that brought LeBron’s ire to the forefront. Tristan Thompson and LeBron were in the act of defending George on the outside when the defense failed with the Pacer’s star sinking a three in their respective faces.
LeBron barked at Thompson who responded with his own choice words.
After the game, number 23 told the media he apologized to his teammate for showing him up.
For his part, Thompson called them family and channeled his inner-Belichick, “We’re on to Orlando,” whom the Cavs face at Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday.
Adding to the heavy-is-the-head style game on Sunday was more fodder to the evergreen topic from hell of LeBron’s minutes. James tallied shy of 52 minutes on the court and appeared to be laboring as early as the end of the 3rd quarter.
His outside shot disappeared in the 4th as he went 1-4 with several attempts meekly hitting the front of the rim.
Adding to the tired leg legitimacy, LeBron took just 4 shots in the two overtimes, making only one. To be fair, that one shot was a key three that gave the Cavs a 4-point lead with under a minute left in the second overtime.
Even had the game stopped at regulation, LeBron would’ve clocked 40+ minutes. That’ll add to his 37.6 minutes per game averaged this year, his highest since his final season in Miami.
For their part, the Pacers set a physical tone for LeBron and the Cavs. George had his tactics on the King while longtime nemesis Lance Stephenson racked up 4 of his 5 fouls on James.
Despite all the circus surrounding him, LeBron was still LeBron. He finished with a stat line of 41 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists for his 11th triple-double of the season.
The win pushed the Cavs ½ game back off the Boston Celtics in the East. After a dalliance with Orlando on Tuesday night, the Cavs head to Boston for the second half of a back-to-back.
With six games in the regular season, LeBron and the Cavs have plenty to work on. Not one aspect of their game feels championship let alone playoff ready while making a surge to reclaim the lead in the East.
After a tough fought double overtime win, LeBron might wish to edit Mr. Brooks iconic line to say, “It’s good to be the king….but it sure as hell ain’t easy.”