Boston (92.3 The Fan) – LeBron said on Tuesday that the Cavaliers would be better in Game 5, because they knew who the Celtics were without Isaiah Thomas after about 92 minutes of action.
He was right, as there was no doubt the King and his court had figured out who Brad Stevens’ team was by Thursday, as they took the Celtics to the proverbial woodshed from tip-off in the elimination game.
While most have spent their time in-between the rematch and the Three-Match trying to pick apart the Cavaliers’ weaknesses and what LeBron can’t do, those same critics have lost sight of what makes a great leader in the post-season.
What makes LeBron among the two best players in the history of the sport is not the man’s unparalleled athleticism or his unrivaled desire to win. James is the best in the world and will eventually go down as the best in history because of his basketball IQ.
It may not have been as prominent when he led a ragtag group to the 2007 Finals, when he dominated the Pistons physically, but it has been since.
What was left of his team in the 2015 NBA Finals was not far off, if not on the same level as the Daniel Gibson Cavaliers of his first tilt, yet he single-handedly took the eventual champions to six games.
The 2016 Warriors were the best regular season team in NBA history, with the best player in league history according to MVP voting. They handed LeBron a deficit that no one had ever overcome.
The fact of the matter is, teams do not overcome those deficits on skills alone. Both the 2015 and 2016 NBA Finals were clear evidence that LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, but moreso, they proved he was the smartest. The 2017 Eastern Conference Finals were the same.
The seven game series hands LeBron James an advantage that no other player in NBA history has shown the ability to capitalize upon: the ability to game plan.
The Cavaliers should not have lost Game 3 at home against a team without their star, but James made the point that his team had not game-planned for that team. When they had that opportunity, they smashed the neo-Celtics for a solid 60 minutes straight.
The Golden State Warriors counted James’ improbable win in 2016 by adding the only player on the planet remotely close to James’ capabilities. You would think that would be enough to push the best regular season ever in 2016, and now the first team to sweep the first three playoff rounds in 2017, past LeBron.
Perhaps that is what will prove insurmountable for the best player of all-time, but perhaps he knows how to overcome anything, given the time.
The Warriors could add the next-best player in the league that doesn’t already play in Oakland, but it may not matter.
No matter what, you cannot count James and his team out of any series, as we learned a year ago.
He will find them, and he will find their weaknesses. Again, he is presented with his greatest challenge, and he will meet it.