The 33-year-old forward will lead Cleveland into their fourth-straight NBA Finals. The Cavaliers will face the winner of Monday's game seven decider between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
LeBron James squeezed every last ounce of effort from his misfiring Cleveland team mates on Sunday to lead the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals with an 87-79 victory over the Boston Celtics in their game seven Eastern Conference decider.
The 33-year-old has reached the Finals for the eighth consecutive season but this campaign may be his crowning glory.
With point guard Kyrie Irving traded to Boston in the offseason, and a roster that required a revamp during the year, the Cavaliers were not expected to get this far, even with James operating at a different level.
The three-time NBA champion said he had focused on getting the best out of his team mates all season long.
“I tried to squeeze the orange until there was no more juice,” James told reporters after logging 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists while playing all 48 minutes of the series finale.
“We’ve been counted out a long time this season. It’s a heck of an accomplishment for our ball club to [to win] without our All Star forward for basically two games.”
The absence of Kevin Love, who was sidelined with a concussion suffered early in game six, left Cleveland without a true second scoring option alongside James.
Despite playing with one of his least reliable supporting casts, James still threw the ball around, firing passes for open three pointers despite the Cavs making just 9-of-35 from long range.
“As much as I was passing in the first half and guys weren’t knocking them down, I believed in the second half they would,” James said. “I kept faith in them and they did that.”
James has already passed Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan as the all-time leading play-off scorer and the "greatest of all time" debate is raging once again.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said that amid all the upheaval with trades in and out, James had been a true leader.
“This whole year he led by example,” added Lue. “We had a lot of guys in and out. (LeBron) played all 82 games in his 15th season. He’s unbelievable. He’s the best player in the world and I’m glad he’s on my side.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said getting to the Finals eight straight times was "ridiculous"
"And he does it at this level with the pressure and scrutiny,” added Stevens.
Cavs to face Rockets or Warriors
Chris Paul is officially questionable for the Rockets' game seven Western conference decider against the Golden State Warriors on Monday. Houston coach Mike D'Antoni expressed doubt about Paul's availability as the guard recovers from a right hamstring injury.
"I think it's a game-time decision," D'Antoni told reporters on Sunday. "Probably doubtful, or however they listed it, or questionable. They will eventually test it and see if there's any possibility whatsoever."
Paul, 33, missed Houston's Game 6 loss on Saturday – a 115-86 blowout by Golden State despite the Rockets holding a 17-point lead in the first quarter – after sustaining the injury in the waning moments of the Rockets' Game 5 win over the Warriors on Thursday. He hasn't yet tested the hamstring, according to D'Antoni.
"He's just been getting treatment and trying to make sure it calms down and everything," D'Antoni said. "I would think the doctors and trainers are working on him 24 hours a day almost. They will [Monday] morning re-evaluate it again, probably [Monday] afternoon again."
Paul missed 24 games during the regular season, during which Houston went 15-9, including 15-6 when both James Harden and Clint Capela played. Paul has averaged 21.1 points, 5.8 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game during the postseason. He averaged 37 minutes over the first five games of the series against Golden State, scoring 47 combined points in victories in games four and five.
On the Warriors' injury report, swingman Andre Iguodala is once again questionable to play after missing games five and six with a bone bruise in his left knee. However, Golden State coach Steve Kerr told reporters on Saturday night the team is "operating under the assumption that he will not play."
Iguodala's replacement in the starting lineup, forward Kevon Looney, is questionable for game seven due to a sore left toe. Looney will be a game-time decision.
Looney, 22, tallied four points, seven rebounds and two steals in 19 minutes in game six before being pulled with 3:25 to play in the fourth quarter, about a minute after he had re-entered the game to end forward Draymond Green's night with the contest comfortably decided.
Warriors guard Patrick McCaw, who returned on Saturday from a two-month absence caused by a lower-back injury, is listed as probable for game seven. The 22-year-old scored two points and grabbed two rebounds and a steal in four minutes in game six.
Game seven of the Western conference finals tips off at 9 pm ET on Monday (0100 GMT Tuesday) in Houston, with the winner advancing to the NBA Finals, which begin on Thursday.