Overwhelmed by James, C's Face Game 7
C's Pack for a Week, Take "Let's Go Celtics" Chants with Them
BOSTON – LeBron James wouldn’t miss. And he wouldn’t allow the Heat to get wiped out in six games.
James took over this one from the opening tip, ringing up the Celtics for 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. He destroyed the C’s all by himself, carrying the Heat to a 98-79 victory and tying the Eastern Conference Finals at 3-3.
He also forced the worst-case scenario: Game 7 in Miami.
“It was a matter of too much LeBron. He was absolutely sensational. Made every shot, set the tone for their whole team. I thought he gave them comfort in the way he played tonight,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who then looked to temper his remarks and start laying the groundwork for Game 7. “It's one loss against, tonight, a great player against our defense. And I think our guys should take that very personal.”
James appeared to have taken all the talk that the Heat were done after their Game 5 loss at home extremely personal. James played with a purpose, torched the Celtics, and responded to his critics – all while hitting some ridiculous shots. It wasn’t a good job and a good effort. It was an amazing job and a superior effort, and one for which Boston had no answer.
Paul Pierce picked up three fouls halfway through the first quarter trying to defend James while he was hitting turnaround, fade-away jumpers. James hit 10 of his first 11 shots, and had 30 points by halftime. Brandon Bass didn’t have much more success in the second half when he drew the assignment.
“I hope now you guys will stop talking about LeBron and that he doesn't play in big games. He was pretty good tonight,” Rivers said. “Now that's to bed.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra grinned his way through the postgame press conference, obviously pleased with what he saw and happy about where his team sits with a decisive Game 7 in its own gym. But he positioned the series as a seven-round heavyweight bout, twice talking about taking his team back to its corner.
Having been on the ropes for the past two days himself, it seemed like an apt analogy.
“We want to retreat, go back to our corner and (get ready) for the next game,” Spoelstra said.
Pierce, who hit the game-breaking 3-pointer in James’ face on Tuesday night in Miami, had a brutal game, connecting on just four of his 18 attempts, missing all six of his bombs from downtown. Kevin Garnett didn’t fare much better, missing several shots in the paint and grabbing just five rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
The only silver lining? Pierce and Garnett should be fresh and furious heading into Game 7. They left the floor early in the fourth when the game got out of hand and the rout was on. Rivers waived the white flag, yanking KG (6-of-14, 12 points) and Pierce (4-of-18, nine points) to save what bullets they have left for a Game 7 in South Beach.
Rajon Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, but seven turnovers) had his moments in this one, but overall, the Celtics missed too many makeable shots and never came up with a way to take the ball out of James’ hands.
One more thing happened in this game that was noteworthy. If you left early or switched the channel, you may have missed it. With 1:02 to play, an organic “Let’s Go Celtics” chant broke out in a half-empty TD Garden. The score was 92-74, and the game was well out of reach. Maybe the fans realized they may never see this same group again. Or maybe they were trying to inspire the team for Game 7. Maybe it was a little of both.
Whatever it was, it was loud and emotional, and it wasn’t lost on the Celtics.
“Did you hear our crowd the last three minutes of the game? What other crowd in the NBA does that? It's a terrific place to play. The fans were unbelievable,” Rivers said. “They did their part tonight. We just didn't do ours.”
Kevin Garnett told reporters afterward that he was “truly blessed to be a Celtic.” Ray Allen was equally moved.
“Kevin was sitting next to me, and I said these are ‑‑ I know I'm biased, but they're the best fans I've ever played in front of or ever seen in my life. They understand the situation that is before us, and we understand it," Allen said. "And that was basically them sending us off, letting us know, 'Hey, this is still well and alive. We need you guys to go down there and get a win for us.' We all felt it on the bench.
“I know the game was going on. It seemed like that three minutes lasted forever. It was special. I'll talk about that forever, just knowing being down 20 and these people are still standing up, cheering us on, because they know we just have to win one game.”
For those who were in the building, they’ll take that chant with them as a lasting memory of Game 6.
They can only hope the Celtics take it with them to Miami as motivation for Game 7.