INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana) • LeBron James has refused to contemplate the possibility that Game 7 of the first-round series decider against the Indiana Pacers could be his last in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.
"No. No. The thought of, if we don't play well it will be my last game of the year, that will probably hit my mind, but I haven't thought about that," James said after Cleveland's 121-87 loss to the Pacers in Game 6 of the National Basketball Association (NBA) play-offs.
He has a US$35.6 million (S$47.1 million) player's option on his contract for next season but is expected to become a free agent on July 1. The 33-year-old NBA superstar has spoken about his intention to retire as a Cavalier but speculation over his future remains rife, along with questions over whether his hometown team can give him a chance to win his fourth ring.
James led the Cavaliers with 22 points and sat out the fourth quarter as his 11-game winning streak in closeout games snapped on Friday .
For the series, he is averaging 32.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 7.8 assists, while shooting 53.6 per cent from the floor. But he has received little support from his team-mates. No other starter had more than nine points while no other Cavalier had more than 13 (Jeff Green).
The Pacers, on the other hand, had a balanced attack, with seven players scoring in double figures.
Indiana's largest lead was 36 points. Guard Victor Oladipo finished with team-highs of 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his first play-off triple double.
Points by J.R. Smith, the closest the other four Cleveland starters got to double figures.
LeBron James' perfect first-round play-off record.
Thaddeus Young (10), Bojan Bogdanovic (10), Myles Turner (12), Lance Stephenson (12), Darren Collison (15), and Domantas Sabonis (19) contributed to the rout.
In order to set up a second-round clash with top seeds Toronto Raptors, who defeated the Washington Wizards 102-92 earlier on Friday to progress 4-2, James knows he needs help from fellow All-Star Kevin Love. The centre was three-for-10 in Game 6. He is averaging 11 points on 32.4 per cent shooting in the series with 15 turnovers - and is still Cleveland's second-leading scorer behind James (196 points).
"He's a huge part of our success or non-success," said James. "If we want to have any success in either Game 7 or moving on to the next round, Kev has a big part in that."
Game 7 will be played today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) in Cleveland, and James is relishing the opportunity to extend his perfect 12-0 career record in the first round of the play-offs.
"Game 7, I always said, is the two greatest words in sports," added the forward, who is 4-2 in Game 7s.
"Us having a Game 7 on our floor, our fans are going to be truly excited to be a part of that. And hope our guys are excited about that as well, and understand that just don't take those moments for granted."
The Pacers, on the wrong end of a missed goaltending call in Game 5, are confident of outplaying the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions again.
"I believe we were confident even before the series started,"Oladipo said. "And we're still confident now."
MILWAUKEE V BOSTON
Game 7: Singtel TV Ch110, 8am