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Rockets-Cavs: LeBron starts with the man in the mirror, Harden crowned 'new King James'

Rockets-Cavs: LeBron starts with the man in the mirror, Harden crowned 'new King James'

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 The Houston Rockets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime on Sunday in a physical, hotly contested potential NBA Finals matchup highlighted by excellent play from James Harden andLeBron James, two members of the lead pack in the race for the 2014-15 NBA Most Valuable Player Award. With the contest in the balance late in overtime, LeBron missed a pair of free throws that could have tied the game or given Cleveland the lead, helping the Rockets hold on for their 41st win of the season and making the Cavs losers of two straight for the first time since before head coach David Blatt took the whole gang bowling.

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The four-time MVP scored a game-high 37 points, but shot just 3-for-11 at the charity stripe on Sunday. It was a bummerific outlier for James, a 74.6 percent career free-throw shooter who now sits at 71.6 percent this season, and he seemed to take it to heart:

Evidently, that disappointment persisted well after James had exited the visiting locker room at Toyota Center and returned to a neutral corner for some soul searching ... which, since this is 2015, is best communicated through a poignant mirror selfie:

The caption on James' photo confirmed the somber mood he was in:

Looking in the mirror tonight after a tough lost [sic] of my part like You're your biggest challenge, competition, drive, obstacle, motivation, etc so it's nothing u haven't seen before! Back in the lab tomorrow to continue the drive to striving to be the Greatest I've ever seen! #StriveForGreatness
On balance, it's not a bad thing for James to begin his post-mortem by starting with the man in the mirror, literally and figuratively. After all, while he did lead the Cavs' offense in the absence ofinjured point guard Kyrie Irving, he took 35 field-goal attempts, more than he has in nine yearsand tied for the second-highest shot total of his career. And as David Zavac of Cavs blog Fear the Sword points out, in a non-Kyrie context, more LeBron isn't necessarily always a great thing:

And beyond that, there is, of course, the matter of those eight missed freebies. While it's not exactly a common occurrence for James to miss that often at the line — it was the sixth time (here are all the others) in 892 career regular-season games that he's clanked eight or more free throws — those misses are on him, and nobody else. He could point fingers elsewhere for the Cavs' loss — J.R. Smith's 3-for-13 performance, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova combining to miss seven of their eight attempts, the Cavs' perimeter defenders relative inability to slow down Harden (33 points on 8-for-18 shooting, 15-for-18 at the line), etc. — but his position at the top of the Cavaliers' food chain means he has to hold himself accountable first and foremost. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and all that.

Then again, maybe LeBron doesn't have to carry all that weight. According to the Rockets, he's been deposed. Watch the throne, y'all:

Unlike the Rockets' social media personnel, I'm not so sure that winning one regular-season game at the start of March means that Houston's bearded wonder is the new sheriff in town and that the four-time NBA MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP is yesterday's news. But big wins lead to big excitement and, at times, big statements; the shots-fired, big-ourselves-up line-stepping sure does seem to be a tonal fit for a Rockets club that — from Patrick Beverley taking exceptionto a LeBron push after a collision to Harden going "Nature Boy" on James and beyond — sure doesn't seem to mind doing a little scrapping and clawing in pursuit of victory.

It's just a shame that the season series between these two clubs has now wrapped up — Houston won the first meeting back in January, while LeBron was sidelined — because it'd be awful interesting to see how LeBron responded to this particular slight. Oh, well. Maybe we'll get to find out come June. If we do wind up seeing Cavs vs. Rockets in the Finals, I'm guessing LeBron's mirror work will take on a much more aggressive tone — something along the lines of:

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!
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