So much noise surroun-ded LeBron James heading into Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
It came from the Golden State Warriors players, who chided James for being overly sensitive to trash talk in the heat of the moment.
It came from raucous Oracle Arena, one of the loudest fan bases in the league that wanted a pound of flesh from James for his involvement in Draymond Green’s suspension.
It came from the vocal group of James’ detractors, who were delighting in the possibility of the four-time MVP falling flat in the finals again, further proof in their eyes that he will never measure up to the unprecedented hype he received from his formative days in Akron, Ohio.
Facing elimination and a fifth career loss in the finals, James delivered a tour de force of a performance with 41 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots in the Cavaliers’ 112-97 victory that pushed the series back to Cleveland.
CONTROVERSY AND CHAOS
It was an emphatic response to three days’ worth of controversy. And as chaotic as it seemed from the outside, the 31-year-old James soaked it all in with the perspective born from 13 years in the pressure cooker.
“I guess when you’re with the game of basketball and big moments like tonight and moments throughout your career, you wish you could get back,” James said. “No matter how loud you turn the stereo system up in your house, you’ll never be able to get it back. You just don’t take these moments for granted, no matter if you’re at home or on the road.”
Mychal Thompson and Ayesha Curry mocked him. Marreese Speights essentially called him a baby, and the Warriors fans booed him mercilessly every time he touched the ball on Monday night.
James insisted he heard none of it. Instead, he saw a weakened opponent and a chance to get one more game back in Cleveland, and he pounced.
“My only motivation is how can I be there for my teammates and my coaching staff,” James said. “That’s it. I mean, at the end of the day, nothing else really matters.”
It was an overpowering performance reminiscent of the 45 points and 15 rebounds he put up for Miami against Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2012. Only this time, James had a little more help.
Kyrie Irving was sensational, scoring 41 points on 17-for-24 shooting to give the Cavaliers the first pair of teammates to score at least 40 in the same game in NBA Finals history.
Miami used James’ dominant performance in Game 6 in 2012 as a spring board to a Game 7 victory that propelled them into the finals. Now Cleveland are equally desperate and hoping for a similar effect heading into Game 6 in Cleveland tomorrow night.