How good has LeBron James been in these playoffs?
Try 36.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in four games against the Toronto Raptors.
Try one of just four players in NBA history to average more than 30 points in a four-game sweep. (Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Hakeem Olajuwon are the others.)
Or how about this — in eight playoff games, the Cavaliers star is averaging 34.4 points on 56 percent shooting. He’s even burying a sizzling 47 percent of his 3-pointers.
Along with all that, James has improved his free-throw percentage from 67 percent in the regular season to 73 percent in the playoffs. He closed the Toronto series by making 23 of 25 from the line.
Remember, the Raptors were supposed to have two of the top three wing defenders in DeMarre Carroll and P.J. Tucker. Both took turns defending James. Neither came close to even making him work.
Actually, they did force him to work. LeBron always just makes it look so easy. Now, he’s making it look even easier than usual.
All the Raptors could do is shake their heads and sing the praises of Cleveland’s basketball king.
“He’s unbelievable,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry told reporters of LeBron. “They’re the defending champs for a reason. He’s just been on another level. He’s just raised his game.”
Raptors star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan took the applause to another level, when he said the Raptors would have won “if we had LeBron on our team.”
Well, yeah. Duh.
James has always been that good. But this year he has been even better. That’s really saying something when you think about how he outperformed an entire 73-9 Golden State team in last year’s finals.
But what will it all mean for the defending champion Cavaliers this year?
It could very well mean another ring.
Sometimes, all that has to happen is for one guy to really take flight. Michael Jordan was a prime example of that. All he needed was a Scottie Pippen and a coach he trusted, Phil Jackson, during his run with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.
LeBron has both in Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving and coach Tyronn Lue. And according to some, LeBron has extra motivation this year.
“I think he understands the moment,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “I think he’s chasing Michael. I think he’s chasing rings. And that’s what a guy at his level does.”
As a team, the Cavs haven’t been perfect. They’ve been so-so defensively, even in winning eight straight playoff games.
Irving is struggling with his shot, and the Cavs haven’t been getting everything they need out of forward Kevin Love this postseason. But they still have LeBron.
That can overcome a lot.
“They’ve been through some turmoil,” Casey said. “(James) has been through heartache and pain. You’ve got to go through that to get there. There’s no shame at all going through toughness and pain to get where to where you want to go to win a championship.”
Right now, for James and the Cavs, it’s nothing but smiles.
And if James continues at this pace, it’s highly likely to remain that way. We know LeBron James, and we know he’s often at his best in times like these.