Cavaliers beat Celtics to force Game 7
LeBron’s 46 points, 11 boards keep Cleveland’s hopes alive
LeBron James chose Boston as the place he’ll play next.
Game 7 is on. And any talk about James’ future is on hold.
James scored 46 points and preserved his reign atop the Eastern Conference for at least one more game as the Cleveland Cavaliers shook off losing All-Star Kevin Love with a head injury and beat Boston 109-99 on Friday night to force a decisive climax to this back-and-forth series.
James, playing in perhaps his final game for the Cavs in Cleveland, delivered another sensational performance — he added 11 rebounds and nine assists while playing all but two minutes — to avoid elimination and delay any decisions about where he’ll continue his remarkable career next season.
“Greatness,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Gave it his all. We needed that, especially with Kevin going down. He delivered. He carried us home as usual.”
The king is not dead, and he still has a chance to make his eighth straight NBA Finals.
“It feels good just to be able to play for another game,” James said. “Like I’ve always said, Game 7 is the best two words in sports. ... We should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”
This series, in which home court has meant everything, will have a fitting conclusion Sunday at TD Garden, where the Celtics are 10-0 this postseason.
“We have one game to be able to compete for a championship, and what more could you ask for?” James said. “If I’d have told you at the beginning of the season we only needed one game to make the NBA Finals, we’d take it.”
George Hill added 20 points, and Jeff Green 14 for the Cavs, who lost Love in the first quarter after he banged heads with Boston’s Jayson Tatum.
Terry Rozier paced the Celtics with 28 points, and Jaylen Brown had 27.
The Celtics were still within seven in the final three minutes before James made consecutive 3-pointers, punctuating the second by pounding his chest with both fists and screaming along with 20,562 others.
Just for good measure, he added a three-point play and then was taken out of the game to a rousing ovation and chants of “Cavs in 7!”
“Just a lot of heart, a lot of grit, being resilient,” James said.
Boston’s improbable run through the postseason without injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will now take the Celtics back home, where they play with more intensity, togetherness and before fans hungry to see an 18th title banner raised to their arena’s rafters.
Love went out with a head injury in the first quarter, forcing Lue to juggle his rotations and keep James on the floor longer than he wanted to. The three-time champion played the first 35 minutes without a break and then endured the final eight while nursing a sore lower leg.
Backed by a sea of towel-waving fans wearing white “Cleveland Whatever It Takes” T-shirts, James did just that to push the series to Boston, where he has had some of his biggest moments on the renowned parquet floor.