There have been times in the Eastern Conference finals when the Boston Celtics have been able to overcome the brilliance of LeBron James.
Boston took a haymaker from James in Game 2 and still managed to blow past the Cleveland Cavaliers to take a 2-0 series lead.
But things were different Friday night in Game 6 at Quicken Loans Arena.
With the Cavs facing elimination without Kevin Love, who left the game with a possible concussion in the first quarter, James put on an absolute clinic. He notched a near triple-double, tallying 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists while spending 46 minutes on the court in Cleveland’s 109-99 win.
Every time the Celtics made a run to cut into the Cavs’ lead, James made a play — be it a stepback jumper, a precision pass or a chase-down block — to stem Boston’s momentum and keep Cleveland in the driver’s seat.
And then when it was time to secure a Game 7 back at TD Garden, James drilled back-to-back deep 3-pointers over Jayson Tatum to push the Cavs’ lead to 11 and head for the airport.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens could only chuckle when asked if it ever comes into his mind that his team is facing a generational talent like James.
“Does it ever come into our mind?” Stevens said, via CLNS Media. “It’s like, yeah, everytime we watch. Every time you’re standing out there, every time you watch him on film. I mean, best player in the game. Special night tonight. Special night in Game 4. You know, I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Boston had a chance to take the Eastern Conference crown from James on Friday night, but the star forward got just enough help from his supporting cast to hold off a late Celtics rally before scoring 14 fourth-quarter points to throw the knockout punch.
And now we’re headed back to Boston for one final showdown.
Here are more notes from Celtics-Cavs Game 6:
— The Celtics outshot the Cavs from the field and from 3-point range in Game 6, but the Cavs won the turnover battle (14-11), outrebounded the C’s (44-31), had more fastbreak points (14-9), more points in the paint (46-42) and more bench points (36-23).
— Al Horford had a rough night offensively, going 2-for-8 from the field for six points.
— After struggling in Games 3-5, Terry Rozier dazzled for Boston. He led the team with 28 points, including going 6-for-10 from beyond the arc.
— The Celtics are 23-8 all-time in Game 7’s and 20-4 at home.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images