CLEVELAND (Reuters) - LeBron James carried his Cleveland Cavaliers on a thrilling playoff run but in the end, the weight of a city and an undermanned team on his shoulders proved too much to handle even for the game’s best player.
James delivered an NBA Finals performance for the ages but his hopes of snapping the city of Cleveland’s half-century-long championship drought were put on ice for at least another year by the Golden State Warriors.
“When you fall short, it hurts and it eats at you, and it hurts me to know that I wish I could have done better and done more and just put a little bit more effort or whatever the case may be to help us get over the hump,” James told reporters. “But it just wasn’t our time.”
Injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving during the playoffs and to Anderson Varejao in the regular season left the four-time league Most Valuable Player with nothing more than a cast of role players and aging parts in a quest for a third NBA title.
James, the only remaining boldface name on a Cavaliers roster, did more than anyone could have expected but even his on-court heroics and eye-popping stats were not enough to hide the Cavaliers’ shortcomings.
The best player of his generation threw everything he could at Golden State, averaging 35.8 points per game along with 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists in six games, including a pair of triple-doubles.
James also delivered three 40-point games that left him one shy of the record set by Hall of Famers Jerry West (1969) and Michael Jordan (1993).
But the Cavaliers’ supporting cast was so depleted that whenever James would seek some rest after getting his team back in a game or building a lead, his teammates were never able to make his hard work stand.
”I’ve had a lot of playoff runs, been on both ends, and I know one thing that you’ve got to have during the playoff run,“ said James. ”You’ve got to be healthy. You’ve got to be playing great at the right time. You’ve got to have a little luck.
“And we were playing great, but we had no luck and we weren’t healthy.”
The 30-year-old forward, playing his first season back in Cleveland after winning two championships in four seasons with the Miami Heat, was forced adopt a playing style that was out of character for someone who prides himself on efficiency.
With mediocre ball handlers in Cleveland and key players missing, James was forced to hang on to the ball much more than usual while also taking more shots.
The approach worked for a while but the Warriors made the necessary adjustments.
Still, when James left the court with 10 seconds remaining in Tuesday’s game and the result all but official, the home crowd gave him a rousing applause while chanting “M-V-P.”
“We had two big-time playmakers on the sideline. We’ve got another one that’s been out since early in the season,” said James. “If I could give more, I would have done it, but I gave everything I had.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty