LeBron James has been a megastar for 15 seasons and has participated in the NBA playoffs in all but two.
James has never lost an opening round series after tossing in a game-high 45 points which pushed Cleveland past Indiana 105-101 in Game 7 last Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The No. 4 seeded Cavaliers will now face the top-seeded Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Indiana, the No. 5 seed, drew within 100-96 after shooting guard Victor Oladipo (team-best 30 points and game-high 12 rebounds with six assists) scored on a driving layup with 50.1 seconds left.
Cleveland answered as small forward Kyle Korver (three points) saw James cut toward the basket and rifled him the ball which turned into a layup that made it 102-96 and 30.2 seconds remaining.
Cleveland Head Coach Tyronn Lue’s starting lineup was somewhat odd in that there wasn’t a true point guard.
The Cavaliers’ lineup included small forward James, power forward Kevin Love, center Tristan Thompson, Korver and shooting guard J.R. Smith (11 points).
When James was asked about the starting five, he said it was merely based on all having big game experience.
“The starters have all been in a Game 7 and know what to do,’’ said James, a three-time NBA champion, 14-time All-Star and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, who snared nine rebounds and handed off a game-high seven assists.
This was the first game of the series that Thompson has started and was a key contributor with 15 points and a team-best 10 rebounds.
George Hill, a one-time Pacer point guard, played a major role for the Cavaliers (32 of 74 from the field for 43.2 percent) after scoring nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Hill added six rebounds with three assists and was steady when the Pacers (36 of 80 for 45 percent) made their rally after trailing 76-74 heading into the fourth frame.
The Cavaliers took a 31-19 lead into the second quarter and were in front 54-43 at halftime as James scored 26 points.
Point guard Darren Collison led the way for Indiana with 17 points at the break and finished with 23 points.
James played 43 minutes and was pleased that Love, who has struggled somewhat in the past with the Cavaliers, was able to add 14 points with six boards and two assists.
“I was hurt a little late in the game and when I left we were in front by two points and when I came back the lead was nine points. That’s an All-Star,’’ said James of Love, who played one season at UCLA.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at email@example.com.