AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- All hail the King.
Watching LeBron go on and on
If you missed this one Thursday night, you did yourself an epic disservice. Go find someone who TiVo'd or videotaped it, fast-forward to midpoint of the fourth quarter, then sit back and prepare to be awestruck.
"I've been impressed before, but on this stage?" Damon Jones was saying in the Cavaliers' locker room afterward. "Other than some of the things I saw Michael Jordan do in the playoffs, this has to rank right up there in the top 1, 2 or 3."
James took this game over like he had never taken over before, scoring 29 of his team's final 30 points and dropping 25 in a row for the Cavs at the end as Cleveland defeated Detroit 109-107 in double overtime Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Cavs will go for the franchise's first ever trip to the NBA Finals on Saturday night, and there's no way James can do anything to surpass what he did Thursday night. Well, check that. Maybe there is something even more special coming up in the days and years ahead, and there's no valid reason to say, "He'll never have another game like that again."
He's so good, he might have a half-dozen more performances like this one before he hangs 'em up. But when all is said and done, this 48-point outburst may just go down as the greatest of them all, the night when King James was oh so worthy of wearing the crown of being the game's greatest young player.
"I feel terrible right now," James said facetiously under the questioning of ESPN colleague Rachel Nichols at the postgame news conference. "I'm everything. I'm banged up. I'm winded. I'm fatigued."
And his emotions? Where were they?
"The simple fact that I willed my team to victory is definitely pleasing to me. This is definitely a big win. One of the biggest wins in Cleveland franchise history. For me and my teammates, it's definitely the biggest win. But we have a goal, and we can't dwell on this tonight when we have another game on Saturday. We have got to do our best to try to win that ballgame and get where we wanted to be all year."
If you were looking for outward emotions from someone named James, the better place to get a reading was alongside the team bus as it was being loaded after the game with the Cavs' uniforms and equipment.
Nearby stood Gloria James, LeBron's mother, with such a prideful look on her face that you couldn't help but smile when you saw her. She listened intently as Hubie Brown regaled her with praise for her son's talents, the brightness of her smile practically illuminating the loading dock where the Cavs' friends and families congregated afterward.
"Oh no, no interviews from me. I just stay in the background," James' mom said politely when I asked her for something on the record about what she was feeling during the fourth quarter and the two overtimes when James couldn't be stopped.
James scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including two of the most vicious, high-flying, clutch dunks ever, the last of which tied it at 91-91 with 9.5 seconds left.
James scored nine more points in the first overtime when he took every single shot for the Cavs until Eric Snow threw up a desperation 80-footer at the buzzer that never had a chance, and he dropped nine more points in the second OT on 4-for-4 shooting, the last of which came when he drove left -- the same direction the Pistons have been trying to force him all series -- and converted a twisting layup for a 109-107 lead with 2.2 seconds left.
"For him to score 29 of the last 30 points, somebody told me that in the locker room and I could not believe it," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "I could not believe he scored 29 of the last 30 points. That was a phenomenal performance, not only that, but the guy had seven assists and nine rebounds, he did it all. He always does it all for us. And, you know, everybody keeps asking for more, and he is a willing guy, he just keeps giving us more."
Brown was asked where this game ranks historically, and the way he ran out of superlatives and finished his thought pretty much said it perfectly:
"In this atmosphere, yes, this is the single best game I've seen in this atmosphere, hands down. And I've been around some great players. He was phenomenal tonight, and I felt bad because my words don't give justice to what he did. He was awesome, and at 22 years old, wow. That's all, wow. Wow."
Well put, coach.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
LeBron James shoots and makes the game-winning shot with two seconds left in the second overtime of Game 5 against Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.
With his 48-point night Thursday against the Pistons, LeBron James moved within 26 points of becoming the all-time leading playoff scoring leader for the Cavaliers. All at the age of 22.
-- ESPN Research
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- When he was 15-years-old and his team was trailing at the half of an early-round state high school tournament game in a tiny gym in Wooster, Ohio, LeBron James needed to take over. He scored the first 15 points of the second half and the rest was history.
When he was 18-years-old and playing his final high school game, in front of a sellout crowd at Ohio State University, his team was in a dogfight to win the state championship game and a mythical national championship. He scored 25 of his team's 40 points and the rest was history.
When he played his first professional game in a boisterous environment far away from home in Sacramento, it was in front of millions of skeptic eyes. He scored 25 points, the most ever for a preps-to-pros debut, and the rest was history. So many gyms, layers of challenges and moments of failure led James to the mindset he took into the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night. Each had its own significance, one building upon another, that led a 22-year-old freakish body to become matched with a hyper-developed basketball soul that may be just starting to bloom.
Thursday night wasn't just about scoring 48 points in a conference finals game on the road. It wasn't even about scoring his team's last 25 points, including every tally in both overtimes. It was about applying the knowledge acquired over years of demanding and high-profile challenges.
D. Lippitt/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images
LeBron James, who scored his team's last 25 points in Game 5, just might have more of these epic performances in him as the years roll on.
Quote of the Day:
-- Andrew Ayres
LeBron's fourth quarter production has been big in the three games the Cavs won as opposed to their two losses in this series. In Game 5, he also scored 18 points in the two overtime periods.
-- ESPN Research
Some news and notes from Chris Sheridan in Detroit ...
• Now that were seeing more and more of Daniel Gibson, it should be noted that he got his nickname "Boobie" from his mother, who used to call him that when he'd come home crying after playing rough with bigger, older kids.
• That patch of hair on the back of Drew Gooden's head? It's an Oakland thing.
• Lots of people have been watching the video on YouTube of Rasheed Wallace angrily tossing his uniform jersey over his shoulder and into the face of teammate Will Blalock.
What wasn't captured on camera was a scene I witnessed a few minutes later in the Pistons locker room, Sheed slamming the door to the trainer's room so hard that it knocked a bunch of dust and dirt out of a nearby overhead light fixture. Assistant coach Igor Kokoskov was standing beneath the light and got showered with the debris.
• The close proximity of the two cities represented in the Eastern Conference finals has enabled plenty of fans of the visiting teams to travel into enemy territory. Cleveland fans were having a ball the other night taunting people in Pistons gear with a vulgar modified version of Detroit PA announcer John Mason's signature call: "Deeeee-troit Basketball."
• An update on Kid Rock's '62 Chevy Impala convertible that I saw on the loading dock at The Palace earlier in the playoffs: I spoke to Kid out on the dock at halftime of Game 2, and he told me he got that car from the father of "Monster Garage" host Jesse James.
We discussed Kid Rock's Impala while admiring Pistons broadcaster Rick Mahorn's vintage 1971 Oldsmobile 442 ragtop, and we both wondered why we don't see more classic cars tooling around the Detroit area, being as they were built here.
Kid Rock's ride for Game 2, by the way, was a 1979 Trans Am with only 2,500 miles on the odometer that he said he found in Chicago a couple years ago. My ride is a 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix rental car that cost an astounding $57.28 to refill with gas, a personal record.
The Cavaliers are in the Conference Finals for the third time in franchise history, but Thursday they departed from the blueprint of their first two appearances.