A huge banner is back in place on a building across the street from
It was taken down almost four years ago, when a favorite son punctured the trust of his hometown state and basketball jerseys were burned not far from it. But a similar black-and-white image was put up again after
You don't see his face, only the No. 23 on his back and his trademark pre-game talcum toss. The banner is 10 stories tall. It might need to be even bigger.
James is playing larger than ever in the
James is averaging 41 points through three games, the most by anyone this early in Finals history, and continues to prop up a team without injured All-Stars
He has scored, assisted, or created 200 of the Cavaliers' 291 points, according to Synergy Sports Tech, an immense output for anybody, even James.
"You [ask] how much it's taken out of me. I want it to take it all," a bleary-eyed James said Wednesday. "You [media] guys can see I'm not getting much sleep right now but I'm OK with that. Being the sole leader of a team and a franchise, it's taxing, but I accept the challenge. I accept it all."
James has no choice if he wants to avoid falling to 2-4 overall in the Finals.
The ragtag Cavaliers crew he's dragging from game to game would be laughed at by any Hollywood script screener.
There's the Aussie who went undrafted out of tiny St. Mary's College, but reporters from his country now wonder if he should be knighted back home for his inspirational playoff run. Let's call him
And the wild shooter who makes fans stand in anticipation every time he throws up a shot, even if there's only a minor chance an off-balance, highly contested three-point attempt falls true? His name will be J.R. Smith.
We'll also give James a defense-minded back-court mate with a retro '90s haircut (
James can't do anything less than average 47.3 minutes, plus 12 rebounds and 8.3 assists if the Cavaliers want to win. So he does.
There's something extra driving James but he won't say what it is. He has cryptically referred to being inspired by a "secret motivation" and again declined to reveal it Wednesday.
He admitted to telling former Miami teammate
The easiest guess: James is pushing himself for the city of Cleveland, sometimes derisively called the "Mistake by the Lake" because of its pollution history and lack of major pro championships. The have been no Super Bowls, no
Or maybe it's not so secret.
"It was a bitter moment when I left the first time, but it's a sweet moment here now that I'm back. Both sides had an opportunity to kind of miss each other," James said. "I know the fans are excited and exuberant about me being back. Not only just about me — this team, putting this team back in the position where they can compete and have something to talk about."
One of the main talking points, tied for first with "What happened to the Warriors' offense?" in this series is whether James can sustain it.
His playing time, spread thickly over three close games, hasn't affected him in a negative way other than 31.4% shooting accuracy in Game 2.
"He's doing a good job of being smart when he's choosing his attack points and when he's trying to conserve energy," said Warriors forward
With so little room for error or injury, the Cavaliers received positive medical reports on two members of James' support staff.
An MRI exam on Shumpert showed nothing more than a bruised right shoulder, and Dellavedova continued to recover from cramps and dehydration. Both are expected to play Thursday in Game 4, Cleveland Coach
Dellavedova has turned into Cleveland's second-best player in the absence of Irving and Love. His 20 points were difference-makers in Game 3 but his 38 minutes were apparently too much. He was at a hospital an hour after the game, an IV in his arm, and carried two cups of fluids as he walked around Wednesday afternoon.
"The tank is low and we're doing everything we can to fill it back up," Blatt said.
Two more victories separate the Cavaliers from their first true basketball joy since forming in 1970.
And James from one of the greatest feats in 59 years of the Finals.