CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The statistics say LeBron James has never received less help in the National Basketball Association (NBA) play-offs from a group of team-mates than he did in this first-round marathon against the Indiana Pacers.
The reality of Sunday's Game 7 at Quicken Loans Arena is that his much-maligned supporting cast had to help keep its hobbled "King James" propped up in the most stressful quarter of a chaotic season. And they managed to pull it off in Cleveland's 105-101 triumph.
In the seventh Game 7 of his play-off life, James made his first seven shots and played at his brilliant best until he was hit with what was reported to be a bout of leg cramps late in the third quarter.
That resulted in an enforced break. Yet he managed to overcome the 4min 35sec interruption and the discomfort to finish with 45 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals - while getting just enough help from Kevin Love (14 points), George Hill (11 points) and surprise starter Tristan Thompson (15 points) - to keep the Cavaliers' season alive.
"It was big," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. "They bought 'Bron minutes'."
James appeared eager to get away from the media post-game, saying: "I'm burnt right now. I'm ready to go home."
The Pacers had arrived in Cleveland with their bags packed for Toronto, too, believing they could usher James and his Cavs into an unfathomable early summer after winning Game 6 in a 34-point rout.
The Indiana Pacers outscored Cleveland by 40 points over seven games but their season is over.
They will spend the summer lamenting their inability to capitalise on the opportunity after James was forced into spectator status. But there will be no let-up from Indiana's Victor Oladipo, who will be doubling his efforts during the off-season.
"He's (James) the best in the world. That's what he does. Now I've got to get to work so I can get on that level," said the guard, who led the Pacers with 30 points.
James averaged 40.7 points in Cleveland's three previous wins - 46, 32 and 44 - and by series end, he still had not seen a single 20-point performance by any other Cavalier, reported nba.com.
His fifth straight victory in a Game 7 spared him from making his first exit in the opening round of the play-offs in 15 NBA seasons - along with the uncharacteristic shame of failing to even make it to May. His teams have hardly been pushed in 12 previous first-round series, going 48-7 overall.
The win also gave nervy locals a temporary reprieve from growing fears that James, born in nearby Akron, might elect to leave his home-state franchise for the second time when he has the right to become a free agent on July 1.
The headline in Sunday's Cleveland Plain Dealer reflected that anxiety over his murky future: "Today Cleveland, tomorrow… who knows?" Instead of facing that uncertainty, the Cavs and their fans can turn their attention to the trip to the East's top seeds Toronto Raptors after edging a plucky Pacers team that outscored Cleveland by 40 points over the seven games.
Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi-finals is tonight (tomorrow morning, Singapore time).
In Houston, James Harden scored a game-high 41 points as the Rockets beat the Jazz 110-96 in Game 1 of their Western Conference semi-final series.