BOSTON – LeBron James had 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists to send the Cleveland Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals after an 87-79 win against the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last night.
James has reached the NBA Finals in eight straight seasons, including four in a row with Cleveland. Only Bill Russell (10), Tom Heinsohn (9) and Sam Jones (9) have made more consecutive appearances in NBA history.
The Cavaliers will play tonight’s Game 7 winner of the West finals series between Houston Rockets and Golden State. Cleveland have faced the Warriors in the last three NBA Finals, winning in 2016 and losing in 2015 and 2017.
Jayson Tatum scored 24 points to lead the Celtics, who lost at home for the first time this postseason in 11 games. Al Horford added 17 points and Marcus Morris had a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards.
Boston were denied their first Finals trip since 2010, when they lost to the rival Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
Jeff Green had 19 points and eight rebounds, J.R. Smith scored 12 points and Tristan Thompson had 10 with nine boards for the Cavaliers.
Cleveland won without former All-Star forward Kevin Love, who missed the game after sustaining a concussion in Game 6. Love has entered the NBA’s concussion protocol and his status is uncertain.
James, who entered with an NBA-record Game 7 average of 34.9 points, improved to 6-2 lifetime in Game 7s.
Green’s 3-pointer with 4:56 left in the third quarter gave Cleveland their first lead since the opening minutes at 53-51. The Cavs went ahead by as many as five after that before taking a 59-56 lead into the fourth.
Tatum hit a 3 after his driving dunk over James put Boston up 72-71 with 6:04 remaining in the game, but Green answered with another 3 at the 5:44 mark and Cleveland didn’t relinquish the lead after that.