Did anyone expect anything different?
With the Boston Celtics leading the Cleveland Cavaliers 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron James and Co. needed a Game 6 win Friday at Quicken Loans Arena to force a decisive Game 7 back in Boston.
And the Cavs did just that.
On the back of James’ near triple-double performance, Cleveland grabbed a 109-99 win and will head back to TD Garden for a winner-take-all Game 7. King James tallied 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in the win.
The Celtics got off to a good start, but James and the Cavs’ bench overtook them in the second quarter and held off a valiant fourth-quarter rally to keep their season alive.
Terry Rozier led the Celtics with 28 points, while Jaylen Brown (27), Jayson Tatum (15), Marcus Smart (10) and Marcus Morris (10) also notched double figures.
The series is now tied at 3-3.
Here’s how Game 6 unfolded:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Bayes
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
The Celtics tried to buck their road woes early at the Q, as they took a 25-20 lead into the second quarter. Brown had a brilliant first stanza for Boston. The second-year guard tallied 15 first-quarter points, scoring from beyond the arc and in the painted area at will.
The Cavs lost Kevin Love early in the quarter as he had to go to the locker room after colliding with Tatum. Love did not return to the game.
James had a decent first quarter, going 4-for-8 from the field for eight points.
Boston shot 61.1 percent from the field in the first quarter. The C’s got a ton of good looks in the paint due to Cleveland’s decision to double Horford almost every time he touched the ball.
THE JAMES GANG
Boston held the lead for the opening minutes of the second quarter, but the Cavs’ role players finally showed up. Trailing 27-22, Cleveland unleashed a 22-7 run over the next 7:03 to take a 44-34 lead, causing Brad Stevens to call a timeout.
James was crucial throughout the Cavs’ run, but he got help from Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson who were vital on both ends of the floor. Those five players were on the floor for the entirety of the run, spacing the floor on offense and hounding the C’s on the defensive end.
Cleveland ended up outscoring Boston 34-18 in the period and led 54-43 at halftime.
James led all scorers with 25 in the half on 9-for-17 shooting. Brown paced the C’s with 17 and Rozier added 13.
Boston battled in the third quarter, but the C’s were unable to cut into Cleveland’s lead despite solid play from Rozier. Every time the Celtics threatened to get within single digits, James made a play to push the lead north of 15.
The Celtics continued to struggle with turnovers and shot selection in third, as sloppy passes, ill-advised 3-pointers and missed layups characterized Boston’s offense.
But Boston went on an 8-3 run over the final 2:12 of the third to cut the lead to 83-73 heading into the fourth. Rozier scored 10 in the quarter and led Boston with 23 points after three, while James was the high-man with 32.
BACK TO BOSTON
The Celtics immediately cut the Cavs’ lead to single digits at the start of the fourth quarter when Brown banked home a shot to open the frame.
But while it looked like the Cavs might let the young Celtics steal an elimination game at Quicken Loans Arena, James and his teammates would not let their season end. Every Boston hoop immediately was met by a Cleveland basket on the other end keeping the lead between seven and 12 throughout the period.
Boston kept it within striking distance until James put the final dagger in the C’s coffin with back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 11 with 1:33 to play and cause Stevens to call off the dogs.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
The series will shift back to TD Garden for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images