“The highlights are that LeBron (James) is still LeBron; to me, that’s a great, great highlight,” Stern said of the 32-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers star whose team swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round and will face the winner of the Toronto Raptors-Milwaukee Bucks series in the second round. “The highlight is to get to know Milwaukee, and Mr. (Giannis) An-te-tok-ounmpo…”
The NBA said Monday that two crucial traveling violations went uncalled in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first-round closeout win in Game 4 over the Indiana Pacers. According to the league’s Last Two Minute Report, LeBron James moved his pivot foot at the start of his dribble before sinking a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Cavs’ 106-102 win. Indiana’s Paul George had a shot at a potential tying 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining that the league also determined should not have counted because George also moved his pivot foot before starting his dribble.
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Storyline: Officiating Complaints
“It’s real frustrating to continue losing to the same team, or the same person. It’s what I work hard for in the summer, to try to help lead a team of my own and it’s ultimately who I’m always going to see and face. But again, came up short. Didn’t do enough,” George said. “If we want to win, that’s the team that we have to work towards stacking up against. If we want to be serious, that’s the team we’ve got to look at and figure out how can we match up against them.”
My ESPN colleague Brian Windhorst has been covering James since high school. Who better to ask about how LeBron’s approach to injury prevention has changed? “When LeBron was a springy 18-year-old, he didn’t even tape his ankles regularly,” he says. “But now he invests hundreds of thousands per year on his body.” Windhorst reveals this fun tidbit: James has his own system of liquid nitrogen tanks to apply supercool cryotherapy to inflamed joints, and a black Mercedes Sprinter van with custom white leather lounger seats, in part to allow him to receive treatments on the go. On Slack, Brian writes that the days of acting invincible are over: It’s a nearly annual event for him to come into training camp with the goal of reducing his minutes. And sure enough, after he looked exhausted in the 2011 Finals and the Heat lost to the Mavs, his minutes per game declined from 38.8 in 2011 to 35.6 in 2016.
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That trend has reversed this season. He’s on pace to play the most minutes since 2013-14. LeBron and the Cavs have said this was by design, that James believed it would benefit him by playing more minutes to get into premium condition before tapering later in the season. But that hasn’t happened — as the Cavs faltered he’s averaged more minutes in March than November. To make matters worse, the Cavs typically ride him when he plays the second night of back-to-backs, when he averages more minutes than he does with one or two days’ rest. Last season, LeBron averaged a career low in minutes and a career low in playoff minutes heading into the Finals. It stands to reason this contributed to Games 5-7 in the Finals, when he played perhaps the finest three consecutive games of his career.
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