Cleveland superstar LeBron James had 32 points and 12 rebounds as the Cavs beat the Boston Celtics 74-69 to force a deciding Game 7 in their NBA playoff series.
Needing a win to stay alive, the Cavaliers used a 19-0 run bridging the second and third quarters to take control of the contest and keep top-seeded Boston without a victory on the road this post-season.
Now the Celtics will host the Cavaliers today to decide the Eastern Conference second-round series, the winner of which will face the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals.
“We feel good,” James said of the prospect of heading to Boston. “It’s one game. We’ve got to let our hair down. We had a game tonight where we could have went down and it would have been over, so it’s one game, we’re going to let our hair down and go into Boston and try to steal this one.”
“King” James had struggled from the floor in the first four games, but has now put together back-to-back 30-point performances. James scored 19 of his 32 points in the second half.
Wally Szczerbiak, riding a one-of-10 shooting performance, sank a three-pointer to put Cleveland on top 72-63 with 2 minutes, 8 seconds to play, then the Cavaliers held on as Boston made one final push.
The Celtics scored six straight points to get within three, before Joe Smith sank two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
The Celtics, who fell to 0-6 on the road in the playoffs, have never lost a playoff series after leading 3-2, in 28 opportunities.
Kevin Garnett finished with 25 points and eight rebounds for the Celtics. Paul Pierce had 16 points and Ray Allen, who is shooting 19-of-55 for the series, had another lackluster game with nine points.
The Cavaliers, who shot just 33 percent from the field, compensated by outscoring the Celtics 21-11 at the free-throw line and bringing down 16 offensive rebounds to Boston’s seven.
“It was a grind-it-out game,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “We kept our poise on plays that didn’t go well, we handled adversity and stayed with it, and now we made it a one-game series. We had the right mind frame: Win it at the defensive end. We were as solid on that end of the floor as we could be, that’s what we have to do up in Boston.”
Delonte West had 10 points and Szczerbiak added nine for the Cavaliers. Smith had nine points and five rebounds, while Zydrunas Ilgauskas chipped in seven points with 10 rebounds.
Two James jump shots opened the fourth quarter and closed a 10-scoring run that gave Cleveland a 63-50 lead.
The Celtics battled back to 65-60, before James made back-to-back baskets to stretch the lead to nine with 4 minutes, 7 seconds remaining.
Cleveland had taken control with a 24-2 run from late in the second quarter into the third, as the Celtics missed 16 straight shots from the floor.
Down 51-35, Boston went on a 13-0 run to pull within 51-48 at 3 minutes, 51 seconds of the third. Garnett and Pierce each scored six points in the burst.