With another legendary performance, LeBron James has forced a Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
James was unreal Thursday, putting up 41 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists in a 115–101 Cavaliers win. James saved his best for last, dominating the fourth quarter to ensure his team’s season would survive for one final game. At one point, James scored or assisted on 27 straight points in the second half, tightening his kung-fu grip on the series.
Golden State came out flat in the first, and never fully recovered. Stephen Curry scored 30 while hampered by foul trouble, but the MVP came unglued in the fourth quarter, getting tossed from the game after fouling out with just over four minutes to go. To add insult to injury, Curry’s exit came less than a minute after he was emphatically rejected—and taunted—by James.
The Cavaliers got an all-hands-on-deck performance in the do-or-die Game 6. Tristan Thompson dominated the boards. Mo Williams came out of nowhere to hit a first-quarter shot. Dahntay Jones scored five points in one two-minute stretch. J.R. Smith nailed threes and threw up alley-oops. Outside of another useless game from Kevin Love, every Cavalier stepped up when called upon.
Thompson’s energy on the boards neutralized the Warriors’ death lineup early, though it helped that Golden State missed a host of good looks. Thompson also played very well offensively, scoring 15 while hitting all six of his field goals.
But the game belonged to James, who should win Finals MVP regardless of his statistics in—or the outcome of—Game 7. Through six games of the Finals, James has re-established himself as the clear-cut best player in the NBA. His athleticism overwhelmed the Warriors on Thursday, who had no answer for James’s relentless attacking. After putting up big numbers in last year’s championship round, James is doing so again now, but has brought back the trademark efficiency that was a hallmark of his MVP seasons.
The Warriors looked sloppy for the second straight game. Lazy passes, boneheaded turnovers and pathetic fast-break attempts all contributed to Golden State’s undoing. Curry’s offense was offset by his fouls and turnovers, while no other Warrior could score with any kind of consistency. Harrison Barnes was particularly bad for a second straight game, challenging Love when it came to the game’s most ineffective player.
Klay Thompson scored 25, but went cold for large stretches of the game. Curry and Thompson combined for 55 while the only other Warrior in double digits was Leandro Barbosa. Draymond Green returned from suspension, but his presence did little to deter the Cavs’ offense, which looked every bit as daunting as it did in Game 6.
The action now shifts to Oakland for one last game. The Warriors will likely be favorites due to their homecourt advantage. But no matter where the game is being played, James will be the best player on the court.