LeBron James said he didn't experience a fitful night following the Cavaliers' 76-72 loss to the Celtics Tuesday night in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
He didn't toss and turn, endlessly replaying in his mind the missed opportunities he had in the final minute, including a 4-footer, an 8-footer, and a layup on the Cavaliers' final possession that trickled off the rim and was grabbed by James Posey with 8.5 seconds left.
None of it caused King James to lose even a wink of sleep.
"It's never been a confidence issue with me. I know I can bounce back," James said yesterday afternoon in the visitors' locker room at TD Banknorth Garden. "So, if I have a bad game or if I have a bad two games, it's not like I'm soul-searching. I know I can bounce back and I know I can't play any worse than I did [Tuesday] night."
Uneasy was not how the crown rested on his head that night, after he submitted arguably the worst (12 points on 2-for-18 shooting, 10 turnovers, 9 assists, 9 rebounds) playoff performance of his career.
"You have those games every now and then," James said.
But was it his worst game?
"Nah, nah, it's not the worst," said James, who didn't cite what game ranked as his worst. "At the end of the day, we still had a chance to win the ballgame. I wasn't satisfied with the way I played, but saying it's my worst game? Nah."
In a manner of speaking, James had a point. He still did the other things that enabled the rest of the James Gang to keep it close down the stretch. The Cavaliers even took a 70-68 lead with 1:30 to go when James drove the lane, found it clogged, and kicked it out to 7-foot-3-inch center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who promptly hit a jumper from the top of the key.
"I thought he did other things," said Cavaliers coach Mike Brown of James. "I thought he did a nice job defensively on Paul Pierce, and he's going to have to continue to do that. I thought he did a nice job of rebounding the basketball. When he did get a little careless with the basketball, at times, he made some nice passes. To end up with nine assists is pretty good, but we don't want the 10 turnovers to go along with it. But he did help us in a lot of other areas."
Asked if he took enough shots Tuesday night, James replied with a chuckle, "The way I was shooting, I didn't want to take more than 18."
His final shot, though, proved to be the crowning blow for James. He had Posey backpedaling and Kendrick Perkins rushing over to help when he penetrated the lane. Had James made the basket, it would have tied the game at 74.
But he missed, and must now look to redeem himself in Game 2 tonight at the Garden.
"Once again, it just let me know that was the way my night was going," James said. "Me missing a layup, it doesn't happen much. It just symbolized the way the night went. I knew I had an advantage and could get to the hole. I got there and laid the ball right over the top of the rim, like I usually do 100 times in a row when I make it.
"But when you're 2 for 17, that's what happens."
When asked if he had rehashed the missed opportunities that had eluded him in the final minute, James replied, "Oh, of course. After the game? Of course. Me, being a competitor, of course you have to."
Asked if he lost any sleep over it, James replied, "I slept fine. I'm just going to prepare, watch film, and get ready for [tonight.]"
Vowing to bounce back, James added, "It's very important for us just to play well. We can't shoot 30 percent. I'm not going to shoot 2 for 18. I'm not going to have 10 turnovers by myself. We look forward to playing better."
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.