LeBron pours in 45 and 15 to keep Heat alive, force Game 7
Boston, MA (Sports Network) - LeBron James quieted TD Garden with a 30-point first half and crushed the Celtics' spirits badly enough that he didn't need to close down the stretch.
The reason being, the Heat had already blown Boston out and rolled to a 98-79 victory on Thursday to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals.
With Miami facing elimination, a stone-faced James carried the load with game- highs of 45 points and 15 rebounds. He shot a sensational 19-of-26 from the field and never saw the bench until Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra decided a 22-point lead with a little over three minutes remaining was enough breathing room to give the superstar a rest.
"He was absolutely fearless tonight, and it was contagious," Spoelstra said of James. "He is arguably the most skilled player in this league...and he was able to showcase a lot of that tonight. We needed every bit of it."
Dwyane Wade chipped in 17 points and eight boards for Miami, which had lost three straight after taking the first two meetings.
The deciding game in the series will take place in Miami on Saturday with the winner securing a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals.
The Celtics shot just 1-of-14 from three-point range, and their leading scorer, Paul Pierce, was held to nine points on a porous 4-of-18 performance from the field.
Rajon Rondo scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half and added 10 assists, while Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett each netted 12 points in the one-sided setback.
James started his onslaught after the midway point of the first quarter when he capped a 10-0 run with a three-point play and three-pointer on consecutive possessions. The burst put the Heat in front, 22-12.
"I was aggressive from the opening tip. I went out and played as hard as I could," James said. "I just tried to make plays and give our team a chance to win, and I think I did that tonight."
Miami led 26-16 after the opening frame, and James mirrored his first 12 minutes with a 6-for-7 shooting effort in the second.
The league MVP scored in a variety of ways in his 16-point outburst, hitting mid-range jumpers, finishing off low-post moves and adding a signature putback dunk late in the quarter.
Two Wade free throws gave the visitors a 55-42 cushion at the break, and it was a double-digit game the entire second half.
James missed more shots from the foul line (four) than he did from the field (two) in the first half. He went 5-of-9 from the stripe and 12-of-14 from the field.
"[James] was absolutely sensational. He made every shot and set the tone for their team," admitted Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "He made a lot of tough [shots], but I still don't think we guarded him with enough force."
In the closing minutes of the third, the Celtics had several opportunities to pull within single digits, but Pierce bricked an open three-pointer and Garnett was off the mark on an alley-oop.
James fittingly followed up the misses with a jumper, giving the visitors a 74-61 advantage heading to the fourth.
Wade scored on Miami's first two possessions of the final frame and netted four more points during an 8-0 run a little later that essentially put the game away.
The margin grew to 25 as the benches for both sides emptied.
Miami forward Chris Bosh played a little over 28 minutes and logged seven points, six rebounds and three blocks after logging 14-plus minutes in Game 5...Miami won the battle on the glass, 44-34.