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LeBron James.

The Cavaliers are great in the playoffs - even when LeBron struggles

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For a while, it looked like it was going to happen again on Tuesday night.

LeBron James was headed to the bench with four fouls in the second quarter against the Boston Celtics with his team down big early on.

Without their best player, you would think the Cleveland Cavaliers might be in big trouble against the upstart Celtics, who suddenly looked like they could be going back home after tying the series 2-2 with another upset.

But it wasn't meant to be.

James battled foul trouble and still managed to score 34 points while grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists as the Cavaliers outlasted Boston 112-99. Cleveland has a 3-1 series lead as the NBA Eastern Conference Finals shifts back to Boston for Game 5 on Thursday night.

It appeared to be a repeat performance of LeBron's no-show in Game 3, when he scored just 11 points and the Cavs lost for the first time in these playoffs.

However, a closer look at the numbers show that James usually doesn't have back-to-back bad games - and when he does have rough outings, the Cavaliers usually win anyways.

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four

We took a look at LeBron's game scores for the 53 playoff games he's had since returning to Cleveland for the 2014-15 season.

To find out which games that James would consider "poor," we used game score, formula used by basketball-reference.com to measure a player's overall performance in a game.

(According to the site the forumla is "PTS + 0.4 * FG - 0.7 * FGA - 0.4*(FTA - FT) + 0.7 * ORB + 0.3 * DRB + STL + 0.7 * AST + 0.7 * BLK - 0.4 * PF - TOV.")

The formula was created by former ESPNer John Hollinger, who is now with the Memphis Grizzlies, to measure a player's productivity. According to the site, 40 is an outstanding performance and 10 is an average performance.

Amazingly, in LeBron's 53 playoff games, only three have been "below average" for productivity.

He's had only one of these games during each of the last three runs, and Sunday's horrible outing in Game 3 was the only time the Cavaliers lost in one of those games.

In 2015, James had a game score of 7.9 in a 94-73 win against the Chicago Bulls in a Game 6 closeout win in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. LeBron finished with 15 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds. His stats were hurt by 4 turnovers and poor shooting from the field (7 for 23).

Then, in 2016, James had a stinker against the Detroit Pistons in the first round, although his Cavaliers still won in Game 3, 101-91. LeBron's game score was 9.7 as he had 20 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. His 8-for-24 shooting and 5 turnovers helped contribute to his subpar stats.

In Sunday's Game 3, LeBron had his lowest game score yet, posting a 3.6 while scoring 11 points, with 6 assists and 6 rebounds.

LeBron has also shown the ability to recover from these rough outings, too, as the Cavaliers are now 3-0 in the game after his single-digit game scores. In those three games, he averaged a game score of 20.2.

More bad news for the NBA comes when you look at LeBron's average playoff game scores over the past three years.

In 2015, his average game score was 19.5, and then went up during last season's championship run to 23.4. 

This season, James has averaged a game score of 27.0.

Pretty incredible work for James, who appears to just be getting better.

Topics:
Golden State Warriors
Pacific Division
Western Conference
NBA
Kyrie Irving
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
LeBron James
NBA Playoffs

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