LeBron scores 44 to shoulder Cavs
LeBron James scored 44 points, adding more records to his amazing NBA legacy, and powered the Cleveland Cavaliers over Boston 111-102 Monday, equalizing their Eastern Conference final at two wins each.
The 33-year-old superstar made 17-of-28 shots from the floor, 1-of-4 from 3-point range, and 9-of-13 free throws while contributing five rebounds, three assists and two steals to spark a crucial home triumph.
“I’ve just put a lot of work in,” said James of his point production. “The Man Above has given me some abilities I try to take advantage of.”
The best-of-seven showdown, level at 2-2, continues on May 23 at Boston, where the Celtics are undefeated in these playoffs, with game six on May 25 in Cleveland, where the Cavs have won seven in a row.
The series winner will face either season wins leader Houston or defending champion Golden State in the NBA Finals starting May 31.
In unleashing his sixth 40-point performance of this year’s playoffs, the most such efforts in any year since Allen Iverson’s six in 2001, James rose to second on the all-time 40 or more playoff game list, passing NBA legend Jerry West with his 21st such total.
And with his sixth basket of the night, James passed the old mark for career playoff field goals of 2,356 by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“Any time I’m in the same breath with the greats, it’s just humbling,” James said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”
James had five points in a 10-0 run that gave the Cavs a 19-10 edge on the way to a 34-18 lead after the first quarter, Cleveland closing the period on a 13-3 run and the Celtics missing three dunks in the opening 12 minutes.
“Once we settled down after the first we played much better. I don’t think they were doing anything different,” Celtics forward Al Horford said. “We have to execute better. It’s much harder on the road.”
James scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half and Kyle Korver added 14 points off the bench, all in the first half, as Cleveland led by as many as 19 points and opened a 68-53 half-time advantage.
Although the Celtics trimmed the deficit to 89-76 entering the fourth quarter and made a charge within eight, the rally was too little and too late.
“We were a lot better defensively, making them take contested shots, make the extra pass,” James said. “We have to have the same mindset we had the past two games. If our mind is there, we have what it takes to be victorious.”