Posted Jun 8 2012 9:54AM
BOSTON -- Facing elimination ... on the road ... in one of the toughest buildings to play in ... against one of the best defensive teams in recent memory ... and playing every minute until the opponent threw in the towel, LeBron James had a performance for the ages Thursday. His 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists against the Boston Celtics was a stat line that had been achieved only one other time in playoff history.
With James leading the way, Game 6 went to the Miami Heat 98-79. As a result, the Eastern Conference finals are going back to Miami for Game 7 on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
James hits shots from nearly everywhere on the floor, producing quite an amazing shot chart. He had more field goals (19) than his teammates (18), while taking about half as many shots (26 to 50).
He didn't need much help with those 19 field goals either. Only three of the 19 were assisted, two by Dwyane Wade and one by Shane Battier. James has, by far, the most unassisted field goals in the postseason.
|Most unassisted field goals, 2012 Playoffs|
James apparently found the jump shot that went missing after Game 3. After shooting 6-for-27 from outside the restricted area in Games 4 and 5, James was 15-for-22 from outside the restricted area on Thursday.
Those 15 field goals from outside the restricted area were the most of James' career (798 regular season and playoff games). His previous high was 14, set in Milwaukee on Feb. 20, 2009, when he scored 55 points (one short of his career high) for the Cavs.
If there's one troubling issue for the Heat in regard to their Game 6 victory, it's that they relied heavily on jump shots. They attempted only 14 shots from the restricted area, their fewest since Game 1 of the first round. The Celtics attempted more than twice as many (29).
The Heat also attempted a postseason-high 32 shots from mid-range, the most inefficient area of the floor. After shooting 8-for-38 from mid-range in the last two games, the Heat were 14-for-32 on Thursday.
The Celtics actually outscored the Heat 62-60 on 2-point shots in Game 6. Neither team got to the free-throw line much, but the Heat had a three-point advantage there. The big difference in Game 6 was beyond the arc, where the Heat shot 7-for-16 while the Celtics shot 1-for-14.
For the series, both teams have shot poorly (30.2 percent combined) from 3-point range. And the only player in the series shooting better than 37 percent from 3-point range is Keyon Dooling, who is 6-for-11.
He hit the big 3-pointer in Game 5, but no player has missed more 3s in the series than Paul Pierce, who is 8-for-32 from beyond the arc. Overall, Pierce is shooting just 33.6 percent from the field, the worst he's shot in any playoff series in his career (22 series total).
|Paul Pierce's worst shooting playoff series|
Inside the arc, Pierce has been particularly bad from mid-range, where he's 10-for-41 (24.4 percent). He shot 36.4 percent from mid-range in the regular season and 35 percent in the first two rounds.
Pierce's shooting has obviously hurt the Celtics' offense. And they've actually been more efficient with him on the bench.
|Celtics efficiency with Pierce on/off the floor|
|OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions|
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Of course, Pierce isn't alone on the negative side of the plus-minus ledger. The only Boston rotation player with a positive plus-minus in the series is Kevin Garnett, who is a plus-7.
Chris Bosh almost doubled his Game 5 playing time on Thursday, logging 28 minutes. He scored fewer points and grabbed fewer rebounds than he did in Game 5, but the more he plays, the more he's ready to take on a bigger role.
But should the Heat start Bosh in Game 7, changing their lineup for the third time in the series? Maybe not.
Miami's current starting lineup -- Mario Chalmers, Wade, James, Battier and Udonis Haslem -- has been excellent in this series, outscoring the Celtics 154-125 in 73 minutes. And it has outscored Boston in each of the last five games.
|Miami lineup: Chalmers, Wade, James, Battier, Haslem|
In Game 5, Erik Spoelstra didn't use Bosh's return to go back to playing two big men at the same time, using Bosh exclusively at the center in a small lineup. But on Thursday, Bosh played 10 minutes with Haslem, and the Heat outscored the Celtics 22-14 in those minutes, not allowing any offensive rebounds.
All numbers courtesy of NBA.com/stats.
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