Avery Bradley's three-pointer in the last second of Game Three touched every part of the rim before bouncing in, giving the Celtics an improbable 111-108 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.
James' frustration at his performance showed up after the game when he had an encounter with a heckling fan in the hallway outside the news conference room and then challenged a local radio reporter on a question he didn't care for.
James said reviewing the film from Game 3 was not "tough to watch" because it was clear what changed the game in the second half. But me personally, I didn't have it. The Cavs need to take two more games from the Celtics before punching their ticket to the NBA Finals, and we'd be comfortable betting our life savings that it happens. "That's what I've got to say about my performance".
James' run of playoff games with at least 30 points ended at eight.
The Cavs also looked exhausted for the first time this postseason.
"He's such an unselfish player", Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of James on Sunday night.
"We've got guys that have chips on their shoulders", Stevens said. Two players from the last two decades that have often been discussed with James among all-time greats are Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
With leading scorer Isaiah Thomas out for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals and a pair of brutal beatdowns in the first two games, you can't blame them.
"I didn't have it tonight", James said.
When he gets up from that and keeps going, finishing with a playoff high 42 points? He has a lot of packages.
The fourth came when he was whistled for an offensive foul against Terry Rozier with 6:46 to play and Boston ahead by 10 points. But the exhausted cliché of "that's why they play the games" unfolded surprisingly over the final 18 minutes, and now we might have a series, right? It's our job to go out there and make sure that we make the next right play.
"LeBron seemed detached. He was not driving to the basket like he did nearly every other playoff game", Pluto says. "He's got to be aggressive, get downhill, play like he's been playing, play confident", Smith said. He just made it over and over. Of the Cavs' 70 field goal attempts, 39 were three-pointers.
"No blame (on James)", Lue said. "Not shooting the basketball well, not scoring well, it happens".
Cleveland committed 15 turnovers, including five in the fourth quarter. There was the 2-of-18 shooting game in Boston in 2008.
"He never really got into a rhythm in the second half", Lue said.
We've learned a lot about Boston, not just in this series but in the entire postseason. "They got some open shots and moved around freely".
Overpowering an off-colour Cavaliers, Marcus Smart top-scored for the Celtics with 27 points. "I mean, LeBron James understands how to play the game and he understands what this (Cleveland) team needs from him". Kyrie Irving was equally excellent with 29 points and seven assists. "But today I thought he looked much different in the first half". "He's in good spirits".
Boston closed the series gap to 2-1 and yet nobody believes it has a chance to pull off the upset, and rightfully so, especially now that James has the one game in which he played like a mere mortal this series out of the way. We know what we did wrong in Game 3.