Facing an embarrassing elimination at the hands of the Celtics, a team that has always seemed to have a knack for knocking James out of the playoffs, the Miami Heat had one option: To win.
The look on LeBron James’ face last night said it all. There will be a Game 7 in South Beach Saturday night.
James arrived at TD Garden ready to destroy anyone that stepped in his way. Unfortunately for the Boston Celtics, they were the target of his relentless attack which included 45 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, and 5 assists, shooting a scorching 19-for-26 from the field in Miami’s convincing 98-79 victory Thursday night.
From tip-off until the final buzzer sounded, the emotionless cutting look of LeBron James could be seen. He was determined to put his team on his back and lead them to victory in “The Jungle”, giving them another opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals. Coming up short was not an option for Miami’s “Big 3”. A loss, in the eyes of many, would signify the last time they would take the floor as teammates and lead to a dismantling of a historic basketball power.
LeBron wasn’t going to let that happen on his watch and on his way he joined Wilt Chamberlin as one of two players in playoff history to have 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in a single game.
Game 6 was the game everyone who has ever cheered or bashed LeBron needed to witness. He put his team on his back with a monster performance, doing it quietly and without flash. James has put up bigger games throughout his career, but to his avail many have come in a losing effort. Thursday night he was the quiet assassin striking with a surgeon’s precision, carefully and effectively dissecting Boston’s defense which Doc Rivers has effectively utilized to slow down the Miami attack.
This was the kind of game that will help to build his legacy and silence his seemingly endless critics. He was calm, cool, and collected through all of the nearly 45 minutes he played, never once showing his opponent any weakness, reminiscent of dare I say it–Jordan? Miami needed this LeBron to continue their championship or die season, and they will need the same in Game 7 along with more help from Dwayne Wade, who has been struggling this series since his hot finish against the Pacers.
It goes without saying the Boston Celtics will not lie over especially after coming off such an uncharacteristic performance in playoffs, something seldom seen from this veteran team. They were their own worst enemy last night, headlined by three major storylines:
- Paul Peirce’s shooting performance- On a stage where you can almost expect The Truth to come up big, he was out of sync shooting just 4 for 18 which included a 0 for 6 effort from behind the three point line. He also had three fouls with roughly 6 minutes left in the first half limiting his ability to truly get going.
- Turnovers- As a team, Boston turned the ball on many key possessions. Rajon Rondo alone had 7 turnovers, 50% of his series total previous to Game 6. These turnovers really limited the Celtics’ opportunities to create an offensive flow they normally utilize very effectively.
- 3-Point shooting- On a night when LeBron James was slaughtering their defense, and the rest of the Miami Heat shot 7 for 16 from behind the arc, the Celtics shot a putrid 1 for 14, just 7.1% from three point range far below their 28% average. Ray Allen made the sole trey for Boston, while Paul Pierce missed all six of his attempts.
It must be remembered that this Celtics team is a team that was written off before the series started, and while many doubted their chances in this series, they shocked the world taking three straight from Miami. They are living by four words, “Pack for a week”, and you better believe they will come out of the gate swinging Saturday.
This series has shaped up to be one that no one could have seen coming, from the Heat losing three straight to lose the lead to the historical performance of LeBron James. Each team has had their high and lows while their flaws have been exposed, Miami’s lethargic play and lack of depth and Boston’s episodic inconsistency. The winner of Game 7 will be the team that can withstand the most punches and get back up.
It’s going to be a South Beach shootout Saturday night in American Airlines Arena, with the winner headed to face a sizzling hot Oklahoma City Thunder squad for Game 1 of the Finals Tuesday evening.