LeBron James may have ceded some of the NBA spotlight to Stephen Curry recently but remains the best player in the world, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said on Thursday.
Speaking after the Cavaliers had romped to a 108-89 victory to take a 2-0 series lead over Toronto, Lue spoke not only of James’ ability, but also of how the other two members of the “big three” help him shine.
James had a triple-double – 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists – and with a supporting cast headed by guard Kyrie Irving (26 points) and forward Kevin Love (19 points), the Cavaliers looked almost unstoppable, seemingly headed to the NBA Championship series against either Golden State or Oklahoma City.
“When Kyrie and Kevin are playing at a high level, it opens the floor for LeBron,” Lue told reporters.
“We know LeBron is the best player in the world. There are going to be times he takes the game over … but he understands the bigger picture. He understands the more the team plays, the more the team performs, the easier it is for him.
“We know any given night he can go out and score 40 if he has to, but the style we’re playing, he understands if we get everybody else involved … then everybody will be okay and ready to play.”
Love missed the entire championship series against Golden State last year with a dislocated shoulder, while Irving fractured a kneecap in Game 2.
Their absence left James with too heavy a load to carry, and the Cavaliers succumbed in six games against the Curry-led Warriors.
Curry has continued to captivate the basketball world this season with his astonishing long-range shooting, but James has hardly faded into obscurity.
Now, with Love and Irving seemingly healthy and taking some of the pressure off James, there is a feeling in the Cleveland air that an NBA championship might finally be in the offing.
“It’s always difficult to deal with me,” James said.
“It adds even more when you have two All-Stars with you, two guys that command multiple eyes any possession.
“They’re in such great rhythm right now, I’ve been able to pick my spots and do other things to help us try to win ball games while those guys take the load.
“Tonight was an example of them giving me a little more space and I just tried to make some plays.”