James scores 45, sends East finals to Game 7
By BRIAN MAHONEY
Posted Jun 08 2012 12:42AM
BOSTON (AP) LeBron James pushed away elimination, right along with any defender who tried to stop him.
He wasn’t going to let another season end in Boston. The Eastern Conference finals, 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 that forced the decisive game.
“He was absolutely fearless tonight, 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.”
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.
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.
“In an environment like this, you want to have a big game,” he said. “I wanted to be there for my teammates, no matter what was going on throughout the course of the game.
“This was a gut check for us, and it’s good to see we were able to bounce back after that loss, after that Game 5 loss at home.”
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.
“He played amazing. He was locked in from the beginning of the game like I’ve never seen him before,” Wade said.