The NBA world watched on Wednesday night as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, fresh off of 10 days of rest, blew past the Boston Celtics 117-104 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
James turned in an impressive performance, notching 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while doing whatever he wanted on the offensive end of the floor against an overmatched Celtics squad.
That on its own should strike fear into the hearts of the Boston faithful, who can’t be feeling too confident in their team’s chances to advance at the moment.
However, it’s what James told a sideline reporter after the game (via CBSSports.com) that should have Celtics fans worried moving forward. Namely, LeBron said he expects to be even better as the series moves on:
"That was definitely a feel-out game,” he said. “We kinda know what they want to get to, they kinda know what we want to get to, but uh, after 10 days off, I didn't feel that great, but I know I'll feel a lot better going into Game 2. And I'm ready for the challenge."
A stat line of 38/9/7 will be tough to match, but James knows his body better than anyone. We went back and looked at how LeBron has fared in Game 2 of a series after having a long break before Game 1 to see if the stats back up King James’s claim, looking at the time period since he made his triumphant return to Cleveland.
2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Toronto
After sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round of this postseason, LeBron and the Cavs had a full week of rest before taking on the Raptors in the conference semifinals.
In Game 1, James turned in an impressive 35/10/4 performance, showing no signs of rust as the Cavs cruised to an easy 116-105 victory.
In Game 2, he scored more points, but his rebounds were down, so it’s tough to tell if his 39/6/4 line was better or worse. The important thing, of course, is that Cleveland won 125-103.
The Cavs went on to sweep the Raptors behind an incredible 144 points from King James.
2016 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Toronto
In 2016, LeBron and the Cavs were again well-rested before taking on the Raptors, thanks to a sweep of the Hawks in the conference semifinals.
This time, James put up a 24/6/4 line in a blowout Game 1 victory. He followed that up with a decisively better performance in Game 2, though, recording a 23/11/11 triple-double in another Cavs’ win.
The Cavaliers didn’t manage to sweep the Raptors that time, losing Games 3 and 4 in Toronto before bouncing back to win the series in six games.
2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Atlanta
The 2016 Cavaliers also had a week off before taking on the Hawks in the conference semifinals, courtesy of a four-game sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the first round.
Again, the numbers weren’t definitively different for James, who put up a line of 25/7/9 in Game 1 and followed it up with a 27/4/5 line in Game 2.
The caveat, of course, is that James only played 28 minutes in Game 2 after logging 41 minutes of court time in Game 1, as Game 2 was a much bigger blowout for the Cavs. Therefore, his Game 2 performance was actually more efficient than his Game 1 output.
2015 NBA Finals vs. Golden State
In the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals, James and the Cavs swept the Hawks in convincing fashion to earn a showdown against the Warriors for the NBA title.
Having eight days to rest didn’t slow James down in Game 1, as he recorded a line of 44/8/6 in Cleveland’s 108-100 loss.
However, his Game 2 performance of 39/16/11 was even better, especially as the Cavs pulled off an impressive 95-93 win in Oakland.
Of course, the Warriors went on to win the title that year in six games, though the Cavs would get their revenge in 2016.
2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Chicago
After blowing by the Celtics in the first round in 2015, the Cavs hit a bit of a snag against the Bulls in conference semis, losing Game 1 99-92 as James had a 19/15/9 statline.
In Game 2, though, Cleveland bounced back, earning the 106-91 victory behind a 33/8/5 performance from King James.
Did the seven-day layoff before the start of that series hinder James’s ability to dominate? We may never know for sure, but if LeBron says too much rest affects him negatively, who are we to say otherwise?
All we’ll say is this - the Celtics had better watch out in Game 2 on Friday night or else they could find themselves looking at a 2-0 series deficit heading into Game 3 in Cleveland.