The four-time league MVP scored 35 points with 15 rebounds and nine assists on Sunday night, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 87-79 win over the Celtics and eliminating Boston from the Eastern Conference finals in the decisive seventh game.
“He’s had a lot of gaudy games,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “But I just think Game 7, in Boston, all the circumstances that surround Boston, the history behind Boston … to come here in a hostile environment: (it’s) right there.”
In the first close game of the series, the lowest-scoring and the first victory for a road team, James played all 48 minutes, scoring 12 of his points in the fourth quarter for his sixth straight Game 7 win.
“Our goal going into the series was to make him exert as much energy as humanly possible and try to be as good as we can on everybody else,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “For the most part, I thought we were pretty good at that … but he still scored 35. It’s a joke.”
For the would-be free agent, the victory postponed a decision about his future until next month.
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Jayson Tatum scored 24 points, Al Horford had 17 and Marcus Morris added 14 points with 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who were looking to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. They had been a perfect 10-0 at home this postseason.
Tatum had a dunk over James with 6:41 left — staring down the Cavaliers star and bumping him with his chest — then followed it with a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics a 72-71 lead. But that would be Boston’s last basket for more than five minutes while Cleveland went on a 15-2 run to put the game away.
James has been in the finals every year since 2011 — four with Miami, and now four straight with Cleveland.
The Rockets host Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against Golden State on Monday night, and the winner will host the opener of the NBA Finals on Thursday.