LeBron leads Heat to NBA Finals with Game 7 win over Celtics
Saturday night, a LeBron James-led team finally overcame Boston's vaunted history of Game 7 success. Now, Miami takes on a young, rested Thunder squad in the NBA Finals that begin Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
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For the next 13 minutes, a span of 46 dizzying, unbelievable possessions, neither team led by more than two points.Skip to next paragraph
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That finally changed when Bosh his third 3-pointer with 7:17 left. James made a runner on the next Miami trip, and suddenly the Heat had their biggest lead of the night to that point, 88-82 with 6:54 remaining.
They were on their way.
"He was big time — every shot, every defensive play, every rebound — we missed him," James said of Bosh. "We're just happy to have him back at the right time. If it wasn't for him and the rest of the guys that stepped up, we don't win this game."
Said Spoelstra: "Our most important player."
James made a 3-pointer — it went into the books as a 30-footer, as he leaped from atop one of the Eastern Conference finals stickers on the floor — as the shot clock was expiring with just under 6 minutes left, making it 91-84.
"Backbreaker," Rivers said.
Even mistakes were going Miami's way, as James lost a behind-the-back dribble, only to have the ball skip right into Battier's hands.
Bosh scored from inside the lane to end that possession. Wade scored on the next one, the lead was 95-86 with 3:23 left, Boston called time and the building was simply rocking. James did plenty of talking on the Heat bench in that stoppage, clearly saying the word "Finish" at one point.
They listened. A three-point play by Wade with 2:53 left all but sealed it, the Heat were up 12, and Oklahoma City beckoned.
"We had nothing left," Rivers said. "That's how it felt, as a coach. ... But overall, I don't know if I've ever had a group like this."
A team that was under .500 at the All-Star break almost made the NBA finals.
"One game away on the road, banged up. ... I don't know if we could have gotten any more from the group," Rivers said.
Boston's first score came when the Celtics were inbounding from under their own basket with 1.2 seconds left on the shot clock. Rondo surveyed the defense, then decided to simply toss the ball off Wade's back, catch it and score himself.
It was an omen — the Celtics got plenty of easy scores early.
Boston ran out to a 23-14 lead, before the Heat settled down and tied it twice in the second quarter, the last of those at 35-all with 6:50 left. It was then that Garnett left with his third foul. Heat on a run, Garnett going to the bench, so momentum Miami, right?
Bass scored 10 points in a stretch of just over 3 minutes to spark a 14-3 run, with the Celtics scoring three times off turnovers in that stretch. Allen waltzed in unbothered for a layup with 22 seconds left in the half, and Boston took a 53-46 lead into the break. And the least surprised person in the arena was Rivers, who sensed at the morning shootaround that his team would be sharp for Game 7.
Just in the end, Miami was sharper.
"That's what we talk about," said James, who lost Game 7 appearances with Cleveland in 2006 and 2008. "It has to be a collective group to win the championship. Everybody was in tune today. We wanted to give our fans a big win. We look forward to the next challenge."
NOTES: Strange but true: Celtics fans in leprechaun outfits — green glittery vests, bow ties and hats — posed for photos with fans during the game. They were seated directly behind Arison. ... Also strange but true: Manny Pacquiao — from the Philippines, the country where Spoelstra's mother hails from — planned to delay the start of his fight Saturday night so he could see Game 7. Pacquiao is a Celtics fan. ... It was Heat F Udonis Haslem's 32nd birthday. ... Former Heat forward Jamal Mashburn and former Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn chatted near the Boston bench before the game.
Making a Difference