By Matthew Citak
LeBron James and the Miami Heat are headed to their third straight NBA Finals as they take on the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron is seeking revenge on the Spurs after their sweep of his 2007 Cavaliers in the Finals, where he was held to just 36% shooting. LeBron averaged 29ppg during the Conference Finals in leading the Heat to a series victory against the Pacers. Let’s take a look back at the Miami star’s top 5 career playoff performances.
5) 2012-2013: Game 1, Conference Finals vs. Indiana Pacers
30 points on 12-24 shooting (50.0%), 10 rebounds, 8 assists
We’ll start the list off with a performance from this postseason. After the first two series against the Bucks and the Bulls, Miami had not been truly tested heading into the Conference Finals against the Pacers. However, LeBron and Co. were ready to play, holding off Indiana in Game 1 for a 103-102 victory. The win did not come easy, as the Heat relied on a game-winning layup from LeBron at the buzzer in order to secure the win. LeBron seemed to save his best of the postseason for this game, recording his first (and so far only) triple-double of these playoffs with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
4) 2008-2009: Game 3, Conference Semifinals vs. Atlanta Hawks
47 points on 15-25 shooting (60.0%), 5-10 from 3-Point Range, 12 rebounds, 8 assists
Soon after tip-off, it was clear to everyone in Phillips Arena that they were witnessing something special. The league’s MVP arrived in Atlanta for Game 3 of the Conference Semifinals and put on an absolute show, scoring 47 points on 60% shooting (including 5-10 from long range). Add 12 rebounds and 8 assists, and LeBron joined Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA postseason history with 45-10-8 in a playoff game. Even Atlanta’s Josh Smith described LeBron as playing “out of his mind” in the Game 3 contest. LeBron put the Cavaliers on his back and propelled them to a 97-82 win.
3) 2005-2006: Game 5, Conference Quarterfinals vs. Washington Wizards
45 points on 14-23 shooting (60.9%), 17-18 (94.4%) from FT line, 7 rebounds, 6 assists
In his first postseason series, LeBron continued his amazing play in this Game 5 victory, hitting the game-winning layup with 0.9 seconds left in overtime to give the Cavaliers a 3-2 lead over the Wizards. The then young star netted 45 points on 60.9% shooting, and went an astounding 17-18 from the FT line. LeBron, who recorded his first game-winning shot in Game 3 against Washington, also added 7 rebounds and 6 assists in ensuring the Cavs keep home-court advantage. The win was far from an easy one for Cleveland, as LeBron scored 14 of his points in the 4th quarter just to push the game into OT.
2) 2011-2012: Game 6, Conference Finals vs. Boston Celtics
45 points on 19-26 shooting (73.1%), 15 rebounds, 5 assists
A lot of people forget that in the Big Three’s first Championship run last season, they were one loss away from being defeated before reaching the Finals. The one factor that stopped that from happening was LeBron’s unworldly performance in Game 6 of the Conference Finals. With their backs against the wall, down 3-2 against the Celtics, the League MVP scored 45 points on 73.1% shooting, while adding 15 rebounds and 5 assists. The most impressive part about it? The game was played in Boston, where Miami had lost 15 of their previous 16 games. After having Boston end his season twice while on the Cavaliers, LeBron was not allowing the Celtics to do it a third time, scoring 30 of his points in the first half alone.
1) 2006-2007: Game 5, Conference Finals vs. Detroit Pistons
48 points on 18-33 shooting (54.5%), 9 rebounds, 7 assists
Not only is this LeBron’s top playoff performance, but it is also one of the most dominant performances of any player in playoff history. LeBron scored 48 points while shooting 18-33 from the field (54.5%), and added 9 rebounds and 7 assists. However, that is not what made this game so special. The impressive part about LeBron’s performance was the fact that he scored the Cavaliers’ final 25 points, and 29 of their final 30, in order to secure a 109-107 double-overtime victory over the Pistons. LeBron logged a whopping 50 minutes of playing time in this nail-biter and singlehandedly led Cleveland to the Game 5 victory. The win gave the Cavs a 3-2 series lead in the Conference Finals, and set LeBron up for his first trip to the NBA Finals.
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Matthew Citak is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.