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LeBron James Wills Cavaliers to Brink of NBA Finals

He started 0-of-10. His jumper is broken. He’s playing through multiple injuries. And yet, LeBron James continues to persevere, putting up a historic performance on Sunday night in Cleveland. The King put up 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 114-111 Game 3 overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks to put the Cavaliers one win away from the NBA Finals.

James’s stat line is basically unprecedented. Nobody since 1985-86, which is when Basketball-Reference.com’s database goes back to, had put up the line that LeBron James did tonight. There was this Wilt Chamberlain performance from way back in the day:

Sure, James shot just 14-of-37 (a career high in shot attempts), but that was because of his horrific and bizarre 0-of-10 start that featured several botched bunnies. That 0-of-10 start was the worst in his career, but he made 14 of his last 27 shots after that awful beginning of the game.

Not only did James put up that monster line, but he also hit the two biggest shots of the game. Right after Jeff Teague buried a huge three in the final minute of overtime to give the Zombie Hawks (with Kyle Korver out, Al Horford ejected in the first half and DeMarre Carroll hurting) a two-point lead and a great shot at a victory.

James missed a game-tying attempt, but Tristan Thompson, who has been a monster all postseason, grabbed yet another key offensive rebound and found James in the corner. Then LeBron, who had missed his first five threes of the game and is shooting 16 percent from three in the postseason, buried a clutch three-pointer to give the Cavaliers a one-point lead.

On the other end, James brilliantly challenged a Teague layup, and the ensuing loose ball went out of bounds to Cleveland. LeBron then powered his way to the bucket for his 36th and 37th points, and the Cavaliers took home the victory after Shelvin Mack missed two potential game-tying three-pointers, including a wide open look in the final seconds.

James collapsed to the floor as the buzzer sounded, clearly gassed after playing 47 minutes with his injuries and some cramping. At one point late in the game, he asked to come out after apparently tweaking one of his injuries, but he decided to stay in and came up with the winning plays.

Of course, as great as LeBron was, he didn’t do it all himself. As mentioned, Thompson came up with the biggest offensive rebound of the game, and the Cavaliers had 19 offensive rebounds as a team. Thompson also had a huge block of Mike Scott‘s shot in the final minute after a LeBron turnover in the open court. (It was also a play where LeBron failed to get back on defense.) J.R. Smith had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and he had some nice defensive plays as well. Iman Shumpert had 15 points and seven rebounds while shooting 4-of-8 from three. James Jones added two threes off the bench and even racked up a surprising five assists.

Matthew Dellavedova continues to be a world class irritant, getting into several scrums, with one of those resulting in the ejection of Horford. Starting in place of the injured Kyrie Irving, Dellavedova scored 17 points and shot 4-of-9 from three. The Cavaliers shot 14-of-36 from distance, which helped make up for their 41.2 percent shooting overall and 20-of-29 mark from the free throw line.

This certainly wasn’t the prettiest game in the world. Both teams are banged up, and the Hawks deserve a ton of credit for competing, especially after falling behind by 10 points in the fourth quarter. Atlanta never quit and almost had a chance to steal this game and make the series interesting. Teague notched 30 points and Paul Millsap added 22.

But LeBron James, like he has done so many times before, ripped out the heart of his opponent. This was truly a performance for the ages, and LeBron is now just one win away from a fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

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