Cleveland's LeBron James drives between Boston's Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart during the first half of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday in Cleveland.
CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers’ season will come down to Game 7 Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at Boston’s TD Garden.
LeBron James made sure of it.
The four-time league MVP did everything, including delivering a pair of dagger 3-pointers, as the Cavs defeated the Celtics 109-99 Friday in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at Quicken Loans Arena.
After looking exhausted on several occasions in Game 5, James finished with 46 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and a block in 46 minutes in yet another legendary elimination-game performance. He now has seven 40-point games in the 2018 postseason, tying Michael Jordan (1989) for second all time and just one short of Jerry West (1965).
“It feels good just to be able to play for another game,” said James, who was 17-for-33 from the field and 5-for-7 on 3-pointers. “Like I’ve always said, Game 7 is the best two words in sports.
“It’s just basketball for me,” he added. “I know what I’m capable of doing. I’m just going to trust everything I put into it.”
With Kevin Love out for precautionary reasons for the final 43 minutes due to a head injury — he was being evaluated for a concussion — James also got a lot of help from his teammates.
George Hill had his highest-scoring game of the postseason with 20 points, while Jeff Green stepped up with 14 in Love’s absence. Larry Nance Jr. also was big with 10 points and seven boards as the Cavs outrebounded Boston 44-31 and held an 18-7 edge in second-chance points.
The key, though, was James.
“He’s the best player in the game,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Special game tonight. Special night in Game 4. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
The Celtics, who fell to 1-7 on the road in the playoffs, got 28 points from Terry Rozier, 27 from backcourt partner Jaylen Brown and 15 from Jayson Tatum, but Al Horford managed just six on 2-for-8 shooting.
Boston will now try to win the series by beating James and the Cavs at TD Garden, where the Celtics are 10-0 in the postseason.
“LeBron is different than a lot of other guys, but that’s no excuse,” Rozier said of the pending meeting. “We’ve got to get the job done.”
The Cavs, who led by 16 on numerous occasions in the third period, had a scary moment when Nance fell on James’ right leg after blocking a Tatum drive with 8:28 left in the fourth and Cleveland clinging to an 89-82 lead.
“My leg kind of went in,” James said. “I felt some pain in my right leg from the inside of my knee down to my ankle. I was hoping for the best.”
After saying it would have taken a very serious injury for him to exit, then looking for some wood to knock on, James added, “I wasn’t coming out.”
James was moving pretty well soon after as the Cavs went back up 10, but Boston was down just 97-90 when Brown missed a wide-open 3-pointer near the four-minute mark.
Not long after that, James hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the game on ice while scoring 12 points following the mishap.
“That guy amazes me every night,” Hill said. “From the amount of minutes, the amount of years, the amount of fouls he’s got on his body, what he does night in, night out is something remarkable.
“To have him on our side, it kind of lets me take a deep breath of fresh air. It’s something you can’t really explain what he’s doing night in, night out. It’s just something special.”
It was another elimination-game performance Cavs coach Tyronn Lue attributed to “greatness” and a “championship pedigree.”
“I tried to get him to bang his other knee so then we could have 24 (points after the injury),” Lue joked. “He just fought through everything tonight. That’s why he’s the best player in the world.”
The Cavs led by 16 in the third period thanks to terrific efforts from Hill and Green, and James finally took his first rest with 57.3 seconds left in the quarter and Cleveland up 80-67.
Boston’s Marcus Smart and Rozier sandwiched 3-pointers around one by Kyle Korver to make it an 83-73 game heading into the fourth, and James was back on the floor to start the final quarter.
“He delivered,” Lue said. “He was up for the challenge. He carried us home as usual.”
The Cavs came out flat and trailed 30-24 early in the second period, but then caught fire with second-unit players Jordan Clarkson, Korver, Green and Nance teaming with James.
With the 6-foot-7 Korver winning a jump ball over 6-10 center Aron Baynes, Clarkson and Green making some timely buckets, Nance playing terrific defense and James doing everything, Cleveland went on a 20-4 run to go up 44-34.
A hoop by James — he had 17 points in the quarter and 25 while playing the entire first half — made it a 54-40 game before Rozier hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to cut Boston’s deficit to 54-43 at halftime.
“The second quarter definitely killed us,” Rozier said of Cleveland’s 34-18 advantage.
Brown poured in 15 points as the Celtics took a 25-20 lead after the first period, which was just the start they were looking for after falling behind by 15 after one in Game 3 and by 16 in Game 4.
James had eight points and Hill added six to keep the Cavs in it early, but the rest of the team was just 2-for-11 from the field.
“I took it upon myself to put myself in positions where I could be more aggressive,” said Hill, who also had 12 points in the third quarter and finished 7-for-12 from the field and 6-for-6 at the line. “It’s kind of like that moment where you don’t want to go home.”
Love, who banged heads with Tatum while setting a screen, had to be helped to the locker room with 6:58 left in the first period. No foul was called on Tatum, who ran right into a stationary Love.
Love suffered a concussion in the regular season and also had one in the 2016 Finals.
“When you lose an All-Star like Kevin, our second go-to guy, a pivotal guy, you help your brother up,” Lue said. “That’s what we did. The guys came together and played for Kevin.”
Cavaliers 109, Celtics 99
BOSTON (99): Tatum 7-13 0-0 15, Horford 2-8 2-4 6, Baynes 0-1 0-0 0, Rozier 10-16 2-2 28, Brown 11-18 3-6 27, Nader 0-0 0-0 0, Ojeleye 0-0 1-2 1, Yabusele 0-0 0-0 0, Morris 3-10 2-4 10, Monroe 1-1 0-0 2, Smart 4-7 1-2 10. Totals 38-74 11-20 99.
CLEVELAND (109): James 17-33 7-11 46, Love 0-3 0-0 0, Thompson 1-2 0-0 2, Hill 7-12 6-6 20, Smith 2-7 0-0 5, Osman 0-0 0-0 0, Green 4-10 5-5 14, Nance Jr. 5-5 0-0 10, Korver 2-6 0-0 6, Clarkson 3-9 0-0 6. Totals 41-87 18-22 109.
Boston 25 18 30 26 — 99
Cleveland 20 34 29 26 — 109
Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Boston 31 (Horford 9), Cleveland 44 (James 11).
Assists—Boston 25 (Smart 8), Cleveland 16 (James 9). Total Fouls—Boston 18, Cleveland 19.
Percentages: FG .471, FT .818.
3-Point Goals: 9-23, .391 (James 5-7, Korver 2-3, Green 1-3, Smith 1-5, Clarkson 0-1, Love 0-1, Hill 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 10. Team Turnovers: 9 (11 PTS).
Blocked Shots: 9 (Green 2, Korver 2, Thompson 2, Hill, James, Smith).
Turnovers: 9 (James 3, Green 2, Korver 2, Hill, Thompson).
Steals: 8 (James 3, Hill 2, Nance Jr. 2, Korver).
Technical Fouls: None.
3-Point Goals: 12-28, .429 (Rozier 6-10, Morris 2-3, Brown 2-5, Tatum 1-3, Smart 1-4, Baynes 0-1, Horford 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 10. Team Turnovers: 13 (7 PTS).
Blocked Shots: 2 (Horford, Smart).
Turnovers: 13 (Smart 3, Horford 2, Monroe 2, Morris 2, Tatum 2, Baynes, Rozier).
Steals: 5 (Rozier 2, Monroe, Smart, Tatum).
Technical Fouls: None.
A—20,562 (20,562). T—2:20.
Officials—Derrick Stafford, John Goble, Mike Callahan
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