5 playoff records that raises LeBron James’ ceiling past MJ
In hindsight, a sweep of the Pacers by the Cavaliers seems inevitable. In the lead up to the playoffs, however, things weren’t so obvious. The Cleveland Cavaliers were all question marks coming into the post-season, after a year of bad defending and uninspired play cost LeBron the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference that he’s dominated for so long.
The Cavaliers, who came out ready to make a statement, answered those questions quickly. That statement? This is still LeBron James’ world and everyone else is living it. LeBron dominated the first round of the East yet again, recording several incredible stats along the way that serve to shut down any doubters he may have had coming into this year’s playoffs.
This year marked LeBron’s 12th consecutive appearance in the NBA playoffs, and his 12th consecutive win in the first series. To put that in perspective, Kobe Bryant lost in the first round twice in his career and even Michael Jordan lost three first round series in his career. James has yet to be defeated in the first round in 12 postseasons.
To make that stat even more ridiculous, LeBron hasn’t even lost a single game in the first round in five years. Sunday’s win against the Pacers was LeBron’s 21st consecutive win in the first round of the playoffs. The last time he lost one was in Miami in 2012, when the Heat dropped a game to the New York Knicks. The Heat went on to win the championship that year. His Eastern Conference playoff record since returning to the Cavs in the 2014-15 season is an incredible 28-4.
One of the questions many pundits had this year about the Cavs was about their tendency to blow big leads. Whether they were down 20 or up 20, the Cavs never seemed safe this year. But in the playoffs, LeBron never gives up a lead. In fact, James has entered the 4th quarter of a playoff game with a lead 52 times in his career, including in Sunday night’s game against the Pacers. In those 52 games, James has won every single game. The man simply does not give up a lead, no matter what.
Let’s also not forget James closeout game against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, in which we eclipsed Jordan for all-time leading playoff scorer.
Part of this thanks to his incredible usage rate. While most players start to rest more as they enter the later stages of their career, LeBron has yet to slow down. At 32 years old, he still averaged 43.8 minutes a game against the Pacers, and all without even the slightest hint of slowing down. With that many minutes, combined with LeBron’s utter dominance on both ends of the ball, the NBA Finals are sure to be a lot closer than many Warriors fans would want to admit.