LeBron had a career game when his team needed him to Friday night

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At 3-5, the Cleveland Cavaliers had lost four straight games heading into Friday night’s game in Washington D.C. against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. After losing to the Nets, Pelicans, Knicks, and Pacers during their four-game losing streak, the latter three being by at least 17 points, plenty of questions were being asked about the state of the Cavs.

Yeah, they were only eight games into the season and without one of their best players, Isaiah Thomas, but they still shouldn’t look that bad. If Friday night’s game was any indication, the Cavs are still among the elite in the East and have the capability of playing up to (and beating) some of the conference’s best even away from home. Plenty can be said about the wine and gold beating the Wizards, 130-122, but one thing is still certain: LeBron James is really, really good.

When his team needed him the most Friday night, No. 23 stepped up and put the team on his back, much like he has done at times throughout his time in Cleveland. Not only did he score 57 points, grab 11 rebounds, dish out seven assists, and also have three steals and two blocks as well, but he dominated so much offensively that there was really nothing the Wizards could do besides just witness the greatness.

For James, it was a statement game. Not that people ever doubted that he didn’t, but it was clear that the 32-year-old still has it, and when he has it, no one can stop him. James made 23 (of 34) field goals, 14 of which were in the paint, both were career highs. He hit the 57-point mark while making just two three-pointers and was a perfect 9-of-9 from the free-throw line. No. 23 dominated in almost every facet of the game, but especially in the post-up game. Even though he spent much of the time in the paint on offense, the King played all 24 second-half minutes. In his 15th season and supposedly on the downside of his career, that’s an incredible feat in itself. Let’s take a look at all of James’ 57 points.

For years, Cavs fans have been preaching that James should always post up. Friday night, he did just that. Whether it was John Wall, Bradley Beal, or a number of others, the Wizards needed some magic to try and stop the best player in the NBA and they didn’t get it. Washington stayed away from double-teaming James, and it cost them in the end.

Just how impressive was his 57-point performance while passing Kobe Bryant for the youngest player to score 29,000 points? Let’s take a look at some fascinating stats:

  • James is in his 15th season1 Only one other player in the history of the NBA has ever scored more than 55 points in a game in Year 15 or later.
  • No one has ever had 55 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists while shooting 65 percent from the field. No. 23 had 57 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds while shooting 68 percent.

At this point, you’d think that players around the NBA wouldn’t give LeBron any extra motivation, especially just hours before they take on The King. John Wall and Bradley Beal must not have learned that yet, but they have now. Friday morning, the two Wizards stars not only said that they are the best team in the East, but that the Cavs tanked the top seed last season to avoid taking on the Wizards early in the playoffs. Keep in mind, if Washington could actually make the Eastern Conference Finals, it wouldn’t have mattered if the Cavs tanked or not because the two teams would have faced each other, but Washington lost early in the playoffs so it didn’t happen.

After watching that an hour before the game, I projected that LeBron would go for 50 and a triple-double Friday night. I was just three assists away from being correct.

Even after a career night, the best moment of the night came following the game when James gave his wristbands to two young fans and even took a selfie with one of them.

Although he’s more than halfway through his career, James might have found out Friday night that he has a whole different dimension to his game. Although he won’t stay in the post every game given the wear and tear on his body. But, if given the right matchup, he can exploit it, much like he did against Washington.

Just how good was James feeling after the win? He said that he’s feeling the best he’s ever felt in his career.

The Cavs were struggling and looking for some positive aspects of their game. Against one of the best teams in the East, they not only let it be known that they are still elite, but, even given their lack of defense in the win, Cleveland put the East on notice. Then again, when you have LeBron James and have made three-consecutive Finals appearances as a team, you can always aspect to be one of the best teams in the league. When his team needed him the most in this early season, No. 23 put the team on his back and showed the NBA world that he is still the best player in the league.

  1. Holy shit, time flies. It’s insane to think that it’s been that long already. []