The Cavaliers are still alive, thanks to— who else?— LeBron James.
Led by James’ game-high 46 points, the Cavs won Friday’s Game 6 against the Celtics 109-99. Cleveland’s win ties the series up at 3-3 to force a Game 7 Sunday in Boston.
LeBron James led the way, sitting just 57.3 seconds at the end of the third quarter and the final 57 seconds of the game once the game was in hand. Along with his 46 points, James had 11 rebounds and nine assists. George Hill added 20 points for Cleveland, 12 of which came in the third quarter. Terry Rozier led Boston with 28 points. Jaylen Brown added 27 points.
The one significant low point for Cleveland came in the first quarter, when Kevin Love collided head-to-head with Jayson Tatum with 6:58 to go in the first quarter. Love left the game to be evaluated and did not return. His status for Sunday is currently unclear. Jeff Green started in Love’s place to start the second half.
Cleveland fell behind the game’s opening minutes, trailing from the first basket of the game — a Terry Rozier layup 22 seconds into the game — and ultimately trailing 25-20 after the opening 12 minutes. In the first quarter, James had 12 points on 4-8 shooting, while Hill had six points on 3-6 shooting; the rest of the team was 2-11.
Cleveland took the lead with 8:44 to go in the second quarter on James three-pointer and took control of the game from there. The lead hit double digits with 4:59 to go in the first half and they took an 11-point lead into the half. James led the way, but the Cavaliers’ bench scoring 20 first half points, led by Jeff Green’s nine points.
Hill proceed to take some of the burden off of James’ shoulders to start the third quarter, first getting fouled (and making two free throws) and then stealing the ball and scoring on Boston’s subsequent possession. Cleveland pushed its lead up to as many 16 in the third, but Boston kept the game close. When James checked out for his only rest at the end of th quarter, a Kyle Korver three kept Cleveland’s lead at double-digits when two Boston three-pointers at the end of the quarter would have taken to single digits.
Boston continued to hang around — getting as close as seven-points at various points of the fourth quarter — before James ended them for good. With 2:24 to go, James hit step-back over Tatum to cross the 40-point mark and put the Cavs up 10. After a Celtics basket, James hit another three in Tatum’s face to put the Cavaliers’ up by 11 and prompting a Celtics timeout. Less than a minute later, James drove and scored on Brown for points 45 and 46, pushing the Cavs’ lead to 14. He missed the free throw, but committed a foul and sat the final 57 seconds with ‘MVP’ chants serenading his exit.
Up next: Game 7 is Sunday in Boston. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m.