LeBron drops 45, gets much-needed support as Cavs hold on in Game 7

LeBron says Cavs' Game 7 experience was huge (2:03)

LeBron James praises the efforts of George Hill and Tristan Thompson and previews the matchup against Toronto. (2:03)

CLEVELAND -- There have been times in playoff games over the years when nothing could stop LeBron James but cramps in his legs.

Sunday afternoon, James' great postseason enemy came back again, and at the worst possible time: the second half of a Game 7.

When he walked to the locker room at the end of the third quarter with two Cavs trainers, general manager Koby Altman and the collective breath of the team's fan base were behind him.

At that moment, James had 38 of the Cavs' 75 points. The rest of his team was shooting 12-of-49 from the field.

Kevin Love, his vital running mate, was 2-of-8 and had thrown up everything from embarrassing air balls from 3-point range to touchless rocks from inside the paint. The most suspect supporting cast of James' playoff career was having its most suspect game.

The Indiana Pacers had gone on a 20-5 run in the third quarter -- something they'd been doing all series -- and had destroyed a 14-point Cavs lead. Victor Oladipo was getting going.

It was starting to look bleak for the Cavs.

This is why Game 7 performances determine reputations, sticking to them like the sweat on James' brow when he headed to the locker room. The leftover Cavs -- and that nickname is kind -- were facing defeat.

It was then that the Cavs went on an unexpected and season-saving run, surviving the Pacers' upset attempt to win 105-101. Love was at the center of it, making three baskets, two of them 3-pointers. George Hill, who hadn't played in 3½ games because of back spasms and had taken five injections including an epidural to try to relieve the pain, was inserted into the game and started making an array of plays. It started with drawing a foul on a 3-pointer that delivered vital points.

Team doctors offered IV fluids to James but there was no time. Instead, James drank and ate orange slices. By the time he was back on the bench, the Cavs had increased their lead to nine points. It was as unexpected as anything that has happened to the Cavs in this topsy-turvy season. James later returned to action to help the Cavs to the finish, polishing off a 45-point performance, his third 40-point game of the series.

In a stat worthy of the first page of his career accomplishment list, James has now won five consecutive Game 7s.

"We're a team, it's not one individual, we're a team and all of us expect so much out of each other," James said. "No matter who's out on the floor, we expect guys to make plays and that's what happened tonight."

This was after Tristan Thompson, who had played only a handful of minutes in the series, had helped James get the Cavs a lead with a surprise start at center. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue came to Thompson in the weight room Saturday morning and told him he'd be starting as Lue shifted James to point guard and also put Kyle Korver in the starting lineup. Lue, who wanted to use his most experienced lineup, started the four remaining members of the 2016 championship team including JR Smith.

It was the fourth different lineup Lue used in the series after using 33 different ones in the regular season. That group had played only three minutes together all season, but they helped the Cavs to a 12-point lead in the first quarter.

Thompson was a driving force alongside James. He had seven rebounds in the first quarter alone and returned to his ways of getting offensive boards and playing pick-and-roll with James. He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

"It's part of being a professional, got to stay ready at all times," Thompson said. "Playoffs are a long journey."

Thompson had struggled during the second half of the season and recently had been going through a range of emotions. His girlfriend, Khloe Kardashian, gave birth to a daughter earlier this month. Thompson and Kardashian's relationship had been a popular subject on tabloid shows and websites, and Thompson was booed by his home crowd.

This time, when he left the game for the first time after his strong start, teammate Larry Nance Jr. encouraged the crowd to cheer for Thompson as he replaced him in the lineup.

"It was something that I thought the crowd needed to applaud," Nance said. "The type of energy and effort he came out and played with after the adversity he faced is just a testament to his professionalism and him staying ready and I just thought that our team, the crowd, the whole building needed to recognize that and appreciate it because he was just awesome."

Love added 14 points with four 3-pointers, Hill played the game's last 19 minutes and scored 11 points with 6 rebounds and 3 assists, and Smith had 11 points. Add in Thompson's contributions and it was the type of support James so badly needed.

Oladipo finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds for the Pacers, who also got 23 points from Darren Collison. They lost the four games to the Cavs by a combined 14 points.

"Indiana played as well as anybody has played us all year," James said. "They just have a really good team."

Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.