Cavs back in NBA Finals

The Associated Press
Jimmy Golen

BOSTON–With another Game 7 victory at stake, LeBron James would not sit out.
He would not say goodbye to Cleveland again–not yet, anyway.
And he would not be denied an eighth-straight trip to the NBA Finals.
The four-time league MVP scored 35 points with 15 rebounds and nine assists last night to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 87-79 win over the Celtics and eliminate Boston from the Eastern Conference final in a decisive seventh game.
“He’s had a lot of gaudy games,” Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue said of James. “But I just think Game 7, in Boston, all the circumstances that surround Boston, the history . . . to come here in a hostile environment: [it’s] right there.”
In the first close game, the lowest-scoring, and the first victory for a road team in the series, James played all 48 minutes, scoring 12 of his points in the fourth quarter for his sixth-straight Game 7 win.
Lue used his time-outs to get his star an extra few minutes of rest when he could–and James didn’t warm up at halftime to conserve his energy.
“It was asked of me tonight to play the whole game,” James said. “And I just tried to figure out how I can get through it.”
James played all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career and already is at 100 for the year, with at least four more to come.
He tired late in Game 5, when the Celtics won their 10th-straight at home this post-season.
Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said the plan was to wear James out. Nice try.
“Our goal going into the series was to make him exert as much energy as humanly possible and try to be as good as we can on everybody else,” Stevens said.
“For the most part, I thought we were pretty good at that . . . but he still scored 35. It’s a joke.”
For James, a potential free agent, the victory postponed a decision about his future until next month.
Now, the only question is who the Cavaliers will play for a chance at their second title in three years.
The Houston Rockets host Game 7 of the Western Conference final against Golden State Warriors tonight, and the winner will host the opener of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
The Cavaliers are expected to be underdogs against either team.
“We have an opportunity to play for a championship,” James said. “It doesn’t matter what the storyline is going to be, it doesn’t matter if we’re picked to win or not.
“I’m the wrong guy to ask,” he added. “I just like to compete.”
Jayson Tatum scored 24 points, Al Horford had 17, and Marcus Morris added 14 points with 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who were looking to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
Tatum had a dunk over James with 6:41 left, staring down the Cavaliers’ star and bumping him with his chest, then followed it with a three-pointer that gave the Celtics a 72-71 lead.
But that would be Boston’s last basket for more than five minutes while Cleveland went on a 15-2 run to put the game away.