The cavalry finally made it.
The fort was on fire, LeBron James was almost out of ammunition, the enemy was scaling the walls, but in Game 7, FINALLY! …
The cavalry arrived!
Let’s hear it for the bugler.
Cavs 105, Pacers 101: Cavalry just in time.
You knew they were out there, right? You could hear them breathing. Heavily. Maybe too heavily. For the first six games of a seven-game series that seemed like 17, the Cavs’ role players, the supporting cast, the cavalry, seemed overwhelmed and out of breath.
It was LeBron against the world. The moment is never too big for him because he IS the moment. But in the playoffs, even the best player in the world needs some help.
Sunday, fresh off a humiliating 34-point loss in Game 6, with Game 7 underway, with LeBron STILL waiting, still looking around for some help …
Help finally arrived.
Just when the Cavs seemed doomed without them, The Other Guys stepped up.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue knocked the rust off forgotten man Tristan Thompson and not only played him but STARTED him. That’s apparently how desperate Lue was for a player to give effort, defend, rebound, to contribute.
Thompson did all that.
He had five rebounds in the game’s first six minutes, seven rebounds in the first quarter, a double-double by halftime, for crying out loud!
“When my number’s called I’m going to be ready for my guys,” said Thompson, who had more offensive rebounds in the first half (four) than the entire Indiana team.
Thompson played a season-high 34 minutes, scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“That’s the Tristan we know,” LeBron said. “Today was a great example of his professionalism.”
It was almost like Lue inserted Thompson into the starting lineup to remind his teammates what a role player looks like and is supposed to do.
Point guard George Hill, who didn’t even play in the first half because Lue was afraid Hill’s balky back would flare up if he played, then sat, then tried to play again, was one of the stars of the second half.
Hill played the last 19 minutes of the game, ran the offense, scored 11 points, had six rebounds, three assists, a blocked shot and made nine free throws, all of them under “the fort’s on fire” pressure.
J.R. Smith delivered 11 points, with a side of three rebounds and two assists, Larry Nance chipped in with four rebounds, and Kyle Korver had three rebounds and the assist of the night, hitting LeBron on a backdoor cut for a layup to extend the Cavs’ lead from four to six points with 30 seconds left in the game.
Everywhere you looked it was role players on a roll.
Even Kevin Love was playing like one. After launching one of the most horrific airballs you’ll ever see on a corner three attempt in the first quarter, Love recovered late to hit a couple key fourth-quarter baskets, en route to his 14 points.
It was the kind of supporting cast that LeBron had been casting about for six games. Finally, in Game 7, they showed up, probably because it was either show up or shove off.
“This was a tough series,” LeBron said. “They (Indiana) played us as well as anyone played us all year.”
Near the end of the game, ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said he thought Indiana was the better team, and he’s probably right.
But the Cavs have LeBron.
And even with all that help from the cavalry, LeBron still had to score 45 points in order for the Cavs to send the Pacers home for the summer. James played 43 minutes, and probably would have played all 48 but for a quick trip to the locker room near the end of the third quarter to attend to what he called “a little minor injury.”
Even when he gets help, LeBron is still the show. He was a monster in this series, and he had to be or the Cavs would have lost it. Quickly.
“That’s why he’s the best player on the planet. He put us on his back and did it all for us in this series,” said Lue.
Throw out the Game 6 blowout, when he sat the whole fourth quarter, and LeBron in the other six games played 43, 39, 41, 46, 41 and 43 minutes. In the Cavs’ four wins he scored 46, 32, 44 and 45 points.
“I thought I had a good motor,” Thompson said. “But he has a Lamborghini motor.”
Late Sunday afternoon, LeBron put it in the garage.
After he and the cavalry repulsed the Pacers’ last Game 7 charge, after he ended his interview room session and less than 48 hours from Game 1 of the conference semifinals in Toronto, LeBron excused himself.
“I’m tired,” he said wearily. “I want to go home.”
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