With the eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls playing LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers even, applying the type of pressure they weren’t supposed to see for another round or two, James put together a three-minute highlight reel that buried the Bulls. Scoring 11 straight Cavs points, James willed his team to a 112-102 victory and a 2-0 lead in this first-round Eastern Conference series. The late run was the defining stretch of a terrific outing by the soon-to-be two-time MVP, who turned in a dazzling, 40-point, 8-assist, 8-rebound, 2-block performance at Quicken Loans Arena. “It was a sight to see,” said teammate Antawn Jamison, who followed LeBron with 14 points. “To see how close the game was and for him to take over, you just have to realize that you’re witnessing history. There’s only a certain amount of guys who can do that. I’ve seen my fair share of that as an opponent and it’s gratifying to be on the same team as a guy like him.”
“They call me The Closer every time I come in in the fourth quarter,” said James, who made 16 of 23 shots. “That’s my time to put the game away or do what I do best, and that’s just try to close the game the right way. Am I always successful? Not all the time, but it makes me stronger when I’m not always successful. I know how to react the next time I’m in that situation. So it’s great to actually live up to what those guys now are starting to call me, The Closer.” While Chicago did most things right Monday, they did one thing horribly wrong: they taunted James. Even though he was butchering them at will the whole night through, the impudent visitors talked trash. “They were talking the whole game,” James said. “Every time I caught the ball over there (by the Bulls’ bench), they were daring me to shoot the ball, telling me that I couldn’t shoot or ‘You can’t make jump shots, so take the shot.’ So that’s what I did. They asked me to shoot a jumper and I did that, over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.”
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