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LeBron James’ persistent faith in his teammates finally paid off against the Celtics

LeBron James had a stellar performance in Game 7 against the Celtics. But his trust in his teammates was just as impressive as his stat line.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Seven Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

One of the biggest critiques of LeBron James’ career has been how he has never been afraid to share the ball and trust his teammates, as opposed to being more selfish. However, it was that same mindset that sent him to an eighth consecutive NBA Finals.

LeBron played all 48 minutes in Game 7 against the Celtics, and had one of his typical big-game performances — 35 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and two blocks. That was expected.

But it wasn’t hero ball like you might expect a superstar to play. He kept trusting his teammates around him, and it paid dividends. It’s really not something that any of us considered going into the game. But it wasn’t always pretty, as you might expect.

Early in the game, LeBron’s supporting cast couldn’t do anything — literally.

Down 26-18 after the first quarter, doubt was in the air despite LeBron’s best efforts. The Celtics were clicking, the TD Garden was hot, and time was ticking on the Cavaliers’ season.

And LeBron just... kept trusting his teammates, and trusting them often.

J.R. Smith came through with one of his best performances of the playoffs with 12 points. It wasn’t a gigantic performance by any stretch, but he’s also been nearly absent in some games, having seven this postseason with five points or less. Collectively, that’s a whole series worth of nothing.

Kevin Love couldn’t step up and help LeBron after he was forced to sit out with a concussion. Instead, the biggest helping hand for LeBron in Game 7 came from Jeff Green, who had 19 points and eight rebounds. Green scored 16 of his 19 points from the second quarter on with 6-of-12 shooting from the field.

The three-pointers were the shots that stuck out from Green, but his effort elsewhere was clear. During a 14-4 Cavaliers run in the third, he went to the basket with no hesitation, and laid in a beauty over Aron Baynes.

Green played 41 minutes and 25 seconds. They were the most important minutes of his career, one that was threatened with heart surgery in 2011. Sunday night, he played the biggest game of his life to go to the Finals against his former team.

Green wasn’t the only player making plays when the Cavaliers needed them the most in the second half. LeBron was able to trust Tristan Thompson to get to the bucket late in the fourth as he drew two defenders.

The game was sealed when LeBron tossed a perfect pass to George Hill, who finished a tough reverse layup against Al Horford to make it an 81-74 game with 1:16 left.

Superman got his cape when LeBron wore Marcus Morris like one on his way to put his own nail in the coffin. Because while LeBron was great at getting his teammates involved, this was still his show, and the performance was then complete.

The game wasn’t pretty. The glamour of Game 7 leads to a bunch of excitement beforehand, and that was quickly diminished after the first half of basketball. It was frustrating for fans on both sides, but especially fans of the Cavaliers, who possess one of the best players the game of basketball has ever seen.

To watch LeBron pass the ball to what is essentially a group of NBA journeymen, and players who haven’t quite reached their potential in a Game 7 of a Conference Finals was understandably not easy. But if there’s going to be a player to trust with his decision making, it’s LeBron.

After the game, LeBron discussed how many people try to “kill” his teammates and the lack of help he receives. But he trusted them, and said with a confidence only he could have, “That’s why we’re going to another Finals, because my teammates played a hell of a game.”

That’s because he trusted them when most others wouldn’t.