Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
The Miami Heat are going back to the NBA Finals. LeBron James scored 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 101-88 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami trailed Boston by 8 points early in the third quarter, but outscored Boston 51-29 in the final 21 minutes of the game. The much-hyped winner-take-all matchup lived up to its billing, featuring six lead changes and seven ties during a crucial stretch in the third quarter.
James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh combined for 73 of Miami's 101 points, including all 28 of the Heat's fourth-quarter points.
James put up 30+ points for the sixth time this series, as well as his fifth double-digit rebound total. "I won't regret Game 7," he had said before the game, and he surely will not. He struggled from the field, shooting 9 of 21, but took 17 trips to the free throw line, had a number of strong moves to the rim that led to points, and hit a dagger of a 30-foot three-pointer in the fourth quarter that seemed to deflate the Celtics.
Bosh stepped up in the biggest way possible, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in one of the most crucial games. Bosh hit 3 of 4 shots from three-point range, the first time in his career he hit that many from downtown.
Wade added 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Shane Battier hit 4 of 9 three pointers en route to a 12-point game. On his 32nd birthday, Udonis Haslem scored 7 points with 6 rebounds and a steal.
Boston jumped out to an early 23-14 lead, capitalizing on a plethora of Heat turnovers. Twice the Celtics led by 11 in the first half, scoring 14 points off of 10 Miami turnovers. The Celtics led 53-46 at halftime.
The Celtics made it a 8-point lead early in the third quarter, then Miami clawed back with a 12-3 run to take its first lead since the first quarter. The Heat and Celtics traded blows to close the quarter, with eight lead changes and four ties in last six minutes. For one stretch of the second half spanning 13 minutes, neither team led by more than two points.
The two teams were tied at 73 heading into the fourth quarter, but Miami blew the game apart in the games final 9 minutes. After Boston took an 82-81 lead on a Ray Allen three-pointer, Miami closed on a 20-6 run.
Rajon Rondo contributed a triple-double for Boston, scoring 22 points with 10 rebounds and 14 assists. Kevin Garnett had his second quiet game in a row after averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds a game through Game 5. He scored 14 points with 7 rebounds. Brandon Bass scored 16 while Ray Allen finished with 15 points.
In what could be the last game with its Pierce-Garnett-Allen-Rondo core, Boston shot 47% from the field and was out-rebounded 38-33. Boston also committed 24 fouls to Miami's 14.
Miami will open its second consecutive NBA Finals on Tuesday night on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder topped the San Antonio Spurs in a 6-game Western Conference Finals, winning four in a row after dropping the first two games.
Coverage of Game 1 starts a 9 p.m. on Tuesday.