It was passionate and far from disingenuous Sunday night when Cavaliers forward LeBron James defended his teammates against continued and sometimes warranted criticism during the postseason.

About the only constant for the Cavs has been the play of James.

James is one of two players on the team with a playoff scoring average in double digits at 34 points per game. The next closest is center/forward Kevin Love at 13.9, so it’s little surprise some consider the Cavs to be LeBron James and the Pips.

But after the Cavs defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday to advance to the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, James was having none of that talk.

“So you get all the doubters and people who’ve never stepped into an arena, who’ve never played basketball, who’ve never put on a tank top and shorts, who’ve never played anything organized, always wanna try to kill my teammates,” he said after the Cavs’ 87-79 victory.

“And it’s unfair to them, but I’m always gonna stay true to the game of basketball because the game of basketball always stayed true to me. That’s why we’re going to another Finals, because of my teammates.”

Broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy, who will call his 12th NBA Finals alongside Mark Jackson, said during a conference call Tuesday he didn’t know if the defense was necessary.

“I’m sure it was appreciated,” he said.

But Van Gundy, who coached the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks, said he sees the situation differently than the way James presented it.

“I don’t see it as teammates getting run down,” he said. “I think what people who don’t have an affiliation with their team are saying is that it’s an impressive accomplishment for a team led by James to have made it back to the Finals, when you look at the trade of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love then being out.”

Jackson, a former coach of the Warriors, disagreed in one regard.

“I think it was somewhat necessary for LeBron to make that statement, and rightfully so,” he said. “As all the love is pouring into him and his greatness, and rightfully so, he is showing an appreciation for the things that his teammates and his coaching staff have been able to do that put him in position to go to his eighth straight Finals.”

Indeed, Game 7 against the Celtics wasn’t won on a barrage of 3-pointers or on spectacular dunks. Instead, the Cavs used gritty, ugly, boring Mike Fratello-style basketball to prevail. And even though James can defend every position, he can’t defend every position at once.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry said he understands that.

“As a basketball fan, to turn on the TV last night and watch the game — and there were points in the game where you didn’t know how it was going to play out — and they found a way to get it done, so shout-out to [James],” Curry told USA Today. “It was an amazing performance, but don’t disrespect the other guys out there. They fought hard, too.”

Still, it’s likely that James and his teammates will continue to hear that particular narrative over the course of The Finals, which begin at 9 p.m. Thursday at Oracle Arena, especially considering the Cavs are the overwhelming underdogs in the series — the most significant one in 16 years, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.

“So it was the right decision by him, but it’s also the right decision by us that are covering [the Finals], have the ability to cover and witness what’s taking place, as far as the supporting cast,” Jackson said of James defending his teammates. “It’s no knock to them, but it’s just speaking the facts. They have done a great job of putting themselves in position to go to the Finals.”

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.