Sunday, June 24, 2018
Sports

LeBron James, Miami Heat rout Boston Celtics to force Game 7 in NBA playoffs

BOSTON — LeBron James refused to let another season end in Boston.

The Eastern Conference final, and his chase of an NBA championship, are headed back to Miami for a Game 7.

James had 45 points and 15 rebounds, overwhelming the Celtics and leading the Heat to a 98-79 victory Thursday night.

Pushing away elimination right along with every defender who tried to stop him, James shot 19 of 26 and finished four points shy of his playoff career high. He played 45 minutes, finally sitting when the victory was long secured, muting a torrent of vitriol stemming from a Game 5 loss. At one point, as the Celtics called a timeout to stem his assault, James stood and stared stone-faced up into the angry noise, betraying no emotion.

"He was absolutely fearless, and it was contagious," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "The way he approached the last 48 hours, and not only LeBron, but everybody else. Nobody likes getting dirt thrown on your face before you're even dead. He showed great resolve."

Dwyane Wade added 17 points for the Heat, though he continued to struggle early with a scoreless first quarter.

Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 10 assists for Boston. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass each scored 12, and Paul Pierce had nine on 4-of-18 shooting.

"We're not going to celebrate this win," James said. "It's a one-game series now, and it's in our building."

At the site of some of James' biggest disappointments, the only disappointed ones were the thousands of fans who filed out of the TD Garden midway through the fourth quarter.

James became the first player to score 25 or more in eight consecutive playoff games against the Celtics since Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (April 28, 1974 to May 27, 1984).

Miami barely won Game 2 before dropping the next three, but this one was never in doubt. James carried the Heat in the first half while Wade shot 1 of 6.

"That was a good response to the last 48 hours," Spoelstra said. "We have a very stubborn, tough-minded group."

Heat center Chris Bosh, playing his second game since returning from an abdominal strain, logged 28 minutes, finishing with seven points and six rebounds off the bench.

The Celtics were hoping to complete a comeback from a 2-0 deficit, as Oklahoma City did against the Spurs in the West final that wrapped up Wednesday night.

James' season was twice ended in Boston while playing for Cleveland, the Celtics emerging as the winner in a Pierce-James duel in Game 7 of the 2008 East semifinals then beating the Cavs in Game 6 of the second round two years later.

Thursday, James had 30 points by halftime and spent the night silencing the crowd and, perhaps, some of his doubters. He set the tone for the game by making 6 of 7 shots and scoring 14 points in the first quarter.

"I hope now you guys can stop talking about LeBron and he doesn't play in big games," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He was pretty good. So we can put that to bed and go play Game 7."

Meanwhile, Pierce was 3 of 16 through three quarters, including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers.

James made 12 of his first 13 shots before missing from the perimeter on his final attempt of the half.

Tensions flared early as Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers tangled in the paint, exchanged words and bumped chests. Chalmers drew a technical foul, his third of the series. Chalmers later sent Rondo sprawling to the court in transition. Rondo calmly flipped over and did two knuckle pushups — six fewer than Garnett did in Game 3.

Rondo climbed to third on the Celtics' all-time playoff assist list, passing John Havlicek (825). Rondo has 831, trailing Larry Bird (1,062) and Bob Cousy (937). He is 17th on the NBA's all-time postseason list.

MIAMI (98): James 19-26 5-9 45, Battier 3-7 0-0 8, Haslem 2-6 2-2 6, Chalmers 3-6 0-0 9, Wade 6-17 5-5 17, Bosh 3-8 1-2 7, Miller 0-3 0-0 0, Cole 1-2 0-0 2, Jones 0-0 2-2 2, Howard 0-1 2-2 2, Turiaf 0-0 0-0 0, Anthony 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-76 17-22 98.

BOSTON (79): Pierce 4-18 1-2 9, Bass 5-8 2-3 12, Garnett 6-14 0-0 12, Rondo 8-14 5-7 21, Allen 3-7 3-4 10, Stiemsma 0-0 0-0 0, Pietrus 1-4 0-0 2, Dooling 0-2 0-0 0, Daniels 3-4 2-2 8, Hollins 1-1 0-0 2, Pavlovic 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 32-75 14-20 79.

Miami26291924—98

Boston16261918—79

3-Point GoalsMiami 7-16 (Chalmers 3-4, Battier 2-4, James 2-4, Cole 0-1, Miller 0-3), Boston 1-14 (Allen 1-3, Dooling 0-1, Daniels 0-1, Pietrus 0-3, Pierce 0-6). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsMiami 50 (James 15), Boston 43 (Bass 7). AssistsMiami 15 (James 5), Boston 14 (Rondo 10). Total FoulsMiami 21, Boston 19. TechnicalsChalmers, James, Garnett. A18,624 (18,624).

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