Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James vows to bounce back from a sub-par performance against the Chicago Bulls in a 99-92 Game 1 loss on May 4.
This was precisely what James told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on Tuesday.
A future Hall of Famer such as LBJ normally lives up to his promise. Remember Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Indiana Pacers and James’ former team, the Miami Heat? When he shot a putrid 2-of-10 from the field for a total of just seven points in a 93-90 loss?
And then he came back to score 25 points in the very next game, a 117-92 rout of Indiana, to win the series 4-2?
Yes, that’s the same LeBron James. And the Chicago Bulls better be wary.
LBJ, for all the flak he’s been getting about his toughness in the postseason, is still a four-time NBA MVP with two championship rings. Check out what he told The Associated Press (via ESPN) after he led the Heat to their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance:
I’m blessed. Very blessed. Very humbled. And we won’t take this opportunity for granted. It’s an unbelievable franchise, it’s an unbelievable group.
And we know we still have work to do, but we won’t take this for granted. We’re going to four straight Finals and we will never take this for granted.
Pay attention to how many times James mentions the line “we won’t take this for granted.”
Three times. In a span of 10 seconds.
This tells us James is a top-caliber player who knows he and his team have gone a certain distance in the postseason. They may falter, but they’re not going to let the opportunity slip away that easily.
Moreover, he has proven he can bounce back after a disappointing performance.
LeBron James Plans to Put Game 1 Performance Against Chicago Bulls Behind Him
LeBron James scored 19 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out nine assists in a 99-92 loss in Game 1 of the ongoing second-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls on May 4.
However, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst notes James also had six turnovers and scored just seven points in the second half. He missed eight of his 11 shots in the game’s final 24 minutes.
James told Windhorst shooting just 9-of-22 from the floor is “unacceptable.” He also said he might have a different approach for Game 2 on Wednesday:
I did have an off game. If I have a great game my numbers will be a lot different. For me that’s an off game just from the standpoint [that] I’m a very efficient player as far as my shooting and to be 9-of-22, that’s unacceptable.
What everybody else says, I don’t really care what everybody else thinks.
I’ve always had to feel out things, but last night it was a little bit too much to feel out. I think I may have to change my mindset a little bit obviously with [Love] being out.
It’s something we all haven’t been accustomed to this year with him being out for an extensive period or another of the Big Three being out for a long period of time since I had my injuries.
LBJ emphasized his point of being better in Game 2 to The Washington Post’s Michael Lee on May 4.
“I have to be better,” he told Lee. “I wasn’t that good. I have to be much better.”
For his part, Cleveland head coach David Blatt told ESPN not all of the blame rests on James’ shoulders:
“It’s not fair to put everything on one guy,” he told Windhorst on Tuesday. “Teams win and lose games and everyone has to give a little bit more. Our margin of error is smaller and we’ve got to make up for that with 48 minutes of multiple effort and that’s on the part of everyone.”
Nonetheless, Windhorst stresses James has rebounded from an 0-1 deficit to win a series four times during his 10-year postseason career with the Cavaliers and Heat. Two of those series wins came against the Chicago Bulls, their current second-round opponents.
James told ESPN on May 4 losing consecutive games at home before flying to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 is not an option.
“You can’t go down 0-2 on your home floor going on the road,” James told Windhorst. “So it’s going to be a tough challenge.”
The Parting Shot
After LeBron James’ sub-par second-half performance against the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 on Monday, he vows to be a different player in Game 2.
He has to, for two very good reasons.
First, the Cavaliers, who missed the playoffs the past four seasons without James, can’t afford to go into an 0-2 hole heading to Chicago, just as James told ESPN. The city of Cleveland is as hungry as ever for postseason success. Another loss could put a damper on that aspiration.
Second, James must rise to the occasion in Love’s absence. Lee reported on Tuesday Love is out of commission for the rest of the playoffs after he sustained a shoulder injury in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
Without him, LBJ must pick up the slack. Ditto 2014 NBA All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving. The two other components of the Big Three must make up for Love’s absence.
Mind you, this is not the James who sputtered against the Dallas Mavericks during the 2011 NBA Finals. This is a different LeBron James—a player who’s more mature and battle-tested.
But he can’t do it alone.
Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Kobe Bryant had Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol. Magic Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
Even if James goes off for 50 points in Game 2 but Cleveland’s supporting cast fails to get it together, they’re done for.
LBJ has shown he can rebound from poor playoff performances. On the other hand, the Chicago Bulls certainly don’t want James to record his third series win against them after falling behind 0-1 in a playoff series.
LeBron James has spoken. The Chicago Bulls better pay attention.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all stats are courtesy of ESPN.