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LeBron's top 10 playoff series

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LeBron's iconic 2012 Game 6 in Boston (2:12)

LeBron James delivers a performance for the ages with 45 points to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals vs. the Celtics. (2:12)

If you were LeBron James, you would've answered the same way. "First of all, you don't let me have 40. I go get 40."

It's insulting to suggest, first, that defenders were strategically allowing LeBron access to the rim. And second, that scoring 40 points against any defense at all is easy, much less against the best-rated defense in the league.

So he went and got 44. And 39 more. And 40 more. And we're all sitting here slack-jawed as the greatest player in the world shows us he's still rising.

When these Finals are over, we might unanimously be saying it was LeBron's best playoff series in an already spectacular decade-long postseason run. Until the 2015 Finals are decided, though, there are plenty of other contenders. So here's a look at LeBron's 10 best playoff series so far.

No. 10: 2006 first round vs. Wizards

LeBron's stats:
31.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.6 APG

What better place to start than LeBron's postseason debut? It was Year 3 of LeBron's NBA existence and he began his playoff journey with a triple-double: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists. Toss in a 45-point game, a 41-point game, two game-winning buckets and a 4-2 series win, and you'd have to say this was a darn successful playoff debut.

Interestingly enough, Damon Jones, who now works with the Cavs, hit the decisive bucket in that series in overtime of Game 6.


No. 9: 2010 first round vs. Bulls

LeBron's stats:
31.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 8.2 APG

This was almost unfair. Against second-year point guard Derrick Rose, LeBron and his troublesome right elbow still managed 40 points on 70 percent shooting in Game 2 and a 37-12-11 triple-double in Game 4. He also averaged a ridiculous 2.4 blocks a game and shot 54.1 percent (13 of 24) from the 3.

But it was the final game, Game 6, when he shot his final free throw left-handed because of irritation in his shooting elbow, that made this series equal parts impressive and frightening for Cavs fans. Oh, and this was his last series win in his initial Cavaliers stint.


No. 8: 2012 second round vs. Pacers

LeBron's stats:
30.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG

This was the series that would ignite a short-lived but intense three-year rivalry between the Heat and Pacers, and most of it happened without Chris Bosh, who was injured in the opening game.

With redemption for the 2011 Finals loss still brewing in him, LeBron teamed with Dwyane Wade to form a terrifying duo and torch the still-developing Pacers. In the series-turning Game 4, with the Heat down 2-1, James dropped an all-timer with 40 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists.


No. 7: 2015 Finals vs. Warriors

LeBron's stats:
41.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 8.3 APG (so far)

That's right, this performance through three games is already that impressive. It would take an injury -- and we all know LeBron would simply regenerate any injured body part anyway -- or an unthinkably disappointing finish for LeBron for this not to end up as one of his greatest series ever.

It's not just the sick numbers, but who's next to him when he's accumulating those, and the 67-win team he's currently beating, that makes this so special. Win or lose the series, if LeBron keeps up this pace, it'll end up his best series of his postseason career thus far.


No. 6: 2012 Finals vs. Thunder

LeBron's stats:
28.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 7.4 APG

LeBron had to be great to beat this ridiculously talented, albeit ridiculously young, Thunder team featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. In his third trip to an NBA Finals, LeBron was selective but aggressive. He was a calming force against an explosive Thunder team that took leads as big as 17 points on Miami's home floor.

But the Heat were able to take four straight after the series-opening loss, and the eventual Finals MVP had a signature moment in Game 4. Suffering from severe leg cramps, he was carried off the AmericanAirlines Arena floor, then returned to hit the go-ahead 3 with 2:50 left. LeBron wasn't going to lose these Finals.


No. 5: 2015 conference finals vs. Hawks

LeBron's stats:
30.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 9.3 APG

The lasting image in this series is LeBron on his knees, exhausted from an overtime win in Game 3 that featured his most necessary triple-double of this postseason. He slapped the floor while he was down there, teammates coming to his aid. But it was the Hawks who were slapped around in this one.

Without Kyle Korver and an ejected Al Horford, the Hawks scrapped and extended LeBron, who was playing without Kyrie Irving at his side for the second straight game. So he gives Atlanta 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists on his way to a sweep. He deserved that brief postgame rest.


No. 4: 2007 conference finals vs. Pistons

LeBron's stats:
27.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.0 APG

How do you make up for scoring just 10 points in the series opener before losing in Game 2? Well, you start by notching near triple-doubles in the ensuing two games. Then have the playoff game of your life. Against the Pistons. On their home floor. You know the game: 48 points, including his team's last 25, sending the game to OT with a dunk and winning it in OT with a layup.

It was LeBron's playoff breakthrough. It turned what began as a disappointing series into his most significant to that point. And it brought him to his first of what everyone knew would be multiple trips to the Finals.


No. 3: 2013 Finals vs. Spurs

LeBron's stats:
25.3 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 7.0 APG

This wasn't so much about LeBron's pure numbers. This was about LeBron battling that Spurs demon -- the one that allowed the stout Boris Diaw to become his nemesis. While he was trying to figure out that let-him-shoot Spurs defense, scoring under 20 in the first three games, he still managed a triple-double in the opener, then rallied the Heat to a Game 2 win, highlighted by a mind-blowing block on Tiago Splitter (can't decide whether it's better in slow-motion or full speed).

Then he closed out the series by scoring 32 or more in the Heat's last three wins, tossing in a partially headband-less triple-double in a Game 6 for the ages, and finally closing out the Spurs with a championship-clinching jumper, a la MJ.


No. 2: 2009 conference finals vs. Magic

LeBron's stats:
38.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 8.0 APG

Yes, this was a series loss for the Cavaliers. But are you gonna blame LeBron for this one? He opened the series with 49 points on 20-of-30 shooting and still lost by a point in Quicken Loans Arena. Not his fault.

He nailed the game-winning 3 at the buzzer to help the Cavs escape Game 2, or this could've been short and ugly.

Blame the defense. Blame the Magic's 3-point shooting (Rafer Alston had a game with six made 3s, for crying out loud), or blame that Cavs supporting cast that featured Mo Williams, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and Ben Wallace. Remember Ben Wallace as a Cavalier? Yeah, not great. LeBron, though, was absolutely great, in his most impressive statistical series to date (we'll see whether his 2015 Finals numbers hold up and surpass this).


No. 1: 2012 conference finals vs. Celtics

LeBron's stats:
33.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 52.7 FG%

This was legendary. A "Lord of the Rings"-type epic final clash between the gray-bearded Celtics and the Heat. Still without Bosh for the first four games, the Heat inexplicably turned a 2-0 series lead into a break-up-the-Heat 3-2 series deficit.

Lose Game 6, and LeBron's Heat tenure is already a colossal failure. Lose Game 6, and LeBron maybe never recovers. Lose Game 6 ... well, that just wasn't an option for this guy. You remember the look. You remember the icy 45 points on 19 of 26 field goals. You remember the 15 rebounds, five assists and even the fist pump from an elated Wade as he watched LeBron nail a late 3.

You remember it so well that it's hard to even remember Game 7. This series, highlighted by that epic Game 6, erased much of the doubt that had been hovering around LeBron for years. He wouldn't be crowned for another five games, but this series truly made LeBron into King James.