LeBron James has walked off the court here too many times with nowhere to go except summer vacation.
The destination this time: Game 7 in Miami, with a spot in the NBA finals on the line.
James had 45 points and 15 rebounds, overwhelming the Boston Celtics and leading the Heat to a 98-79 victory Thursday night that forced a decisive game in the Eastern Conference finals.
After two days of questions about the Heat’s future and his own history, James provided his response in resounding fashion in a building where Miami had lost 15 of its previous 16 games, and where his season had twice come to an end…
James shot 19 of 26 from the field and finished four points shy of his playoff career-high while playing 45 minutes, not sitting down until the victory was long secured…
Dwyane Wade added 17 points for the Heat, who need a victory at home Saturday night to return to the NBA finals. And if James plays like this again, Miami should have no problem getting it…
Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 10 assists for Boston. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass each scored 12 points, but Paul Pierce had only nine on 4-of-18 shooting…
James’ first basket of the third quarter increased the lead to 17 points, and from there it was just a matter of coming up with another score any time the Celtics tried to make a run.
Boston never came close, and when a 3-pointer by Shane Battier made it 81-63 with 10:19 to play, Rivers spent part of a timeout standing alone on the court with his arms folded, leaving it to the players to try to come up with an answer that wasn’t there.
– Reported by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press
Led by James’ brilliance, the Heat shot 48.7 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three-point range. The Heat led by double figures throughout the second half, and its largest lead was 25 points.
“[James] was absolutely fearless [Thursday night], and it was contagious,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “No one likes getting dirt thrown on your face before you’re even dead.”
The Heat outrebounded the Celtics 44-34, with Udonis Haslem (nine) and Wade (eight) pulling down more boards than Boston’s rebounding leader — Brandon Bass, who had seven. Boston was 1 of 14 from three-point range, and Paul Pierce had just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting. Rajon Rondo led Boston with 21 points and 10 assists but committed seven turnovers.
Once again, Wade wasn’t himself to begin the game, but once again he played well in the fourth quarter. He started the game with four points in the first half and was 1 of 6 from the field in the first quarter. But, while he might be playing with an injured knee, he still had enough left in reserve to give the Heat a boost in crunch time.
– Reported by Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald
The Heat’s heart and LeBron James’ ability to take control were loudly called into question after Game 5. But after so many dismal results in this city, the Heat star had to love the sight of Garden fans heading for the exits with seven minutes still left.
Miami finally found a way to puncture the local balloon with last night’s 98-79 win over the Celtics, tying the series at 3-3 and sending the Eastern Conference finals back to Miami for tomorrow night’s very precarious Game 7.
Just when most had written off this team as an underachieving casualty, James uncorked one of the greatest playoff performances by an opponent in Garden history.
James had metronomic precision in a 45-point, 19-for-26, 15-rebound performance that included a 30-point first half and an 11-point third quarter.
His teammates, especially Dwyane Wade, took it from there with a 15-3 run over the first five minutes of the fourth quarter that quickly pushed the Miami lead north of 25 points.
– Reported by Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald
Rajon Rondo sparked the Celtics with 21 points and 10 assists but also had 7 turnovers. No other Celtic starter was able to get into the offensive flow. Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett totaled 12 points, Ray Allen had 10 points, and Paul Pierce went 4 for 18 from the floor and totaled 9 points.
The Celtics were 1 for 14 on 3-pointers, the one make the result of impressive ball movement as Keyon Dooling found a wide-open Allen. That cut the deficit to 30-23 with 9:41 left in the opening half.
But Miami took a timeout and upped the lead to 13 a little more than a minute later.
The Celtics’ small lineup rallied within 69-59 late in the third quarter, then Garnett reentered for the final two minutes of the quarter. But Garnett did not make an impact on this contest, the Heat soon increasing its advantage to 25 points in the final quarter.
– Reported by Frank Dell’Apa of the Boston Globe