LeBron James is about to embark on his 13th consecutive journey into the NBA playoffs and seemingly like James himself, his message, his quest, never gets old.
“My responsibility has been the same for quite a while now — go out and try to dominate,” James said after practice Saturday.
“Try” would not be an accurate assessment of what James has done in the first-round of the playoffs throughout his spectacular career, which continues Sunday against the Indiana Pacers at 3:30 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena.
In 55 opening-round games, James has put up tremendous numbers, averaging 29 points, 88 rebounds and 6.9 assists.
More importantly, his teams’ record in the first round if 48-7 (.873), having won a jaw-dropping 21 games in a row, an NBA record.
Indiana will attempt to do something 12 previous teams have tried and failed — beat a James-led team in the first round.
James has appeared in the last seven NBA Finals, the first four while with Miami and the last three with Cleveland.
“He definitely understands that, going to the Finals, that the quicker you can get a series over and get some rest is the best way to do it,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan said. “So our guys have to understand that we’re gong to see the best (team) at their best.”
In his 15th NBA season, the 33-year-old James averaged 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists while playing all 82 games of a regular season for the first time. The rebound and assist numbers are the best of his career, while he also posted career-highs in triple-doubles (18) and double-doubles (52).
Victor Oladipo, acquired in the deal that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City, blossomed into an All-Star this season, leading the Pacers in scoring. He knows what James will be bringing to the table starting Sunday.
“LeBron is a freak of his own,” Oladipo said this week. “He’s the best player in the world. You could give it (the MVP Award) to him every year but it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else.”
Indiana, which finished only a game behind Cleveland in the Eastern Conference for the fourth seed, beat the Cavaliers in three of the four regular-season matchups this season, though none of those four contests were played after the trade deadline. On Feb. 8, the Cavaliers added George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
“I don’t have any concerns,” James said. “Listen, it’s going to be a very good matchup. It’s 4-5 for a reason. Both teams played good ball at times throughout the regular season.
“Obviously, their season, from the outside looking in was more productive than ours because of what they went through in the offseason. But we went through a lot in the offseason as well. It’s a good matchup and we look forward to the challenge.”