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 on Sunday night, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 87-79 win over the Celtics and eliminating Boston from the Eastern Conference finals in the decisive seventh game.
”He’s had a lot of gaudy games,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. ”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 timeouts 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,” he 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 is already 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 postseason.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the plan was to wear James out.
”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 Rockets host Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against Golden State on Monday night, and the winner will host the opener of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
The Cavaliers are expected to be underdogs against either.
”We have an opportunity to play for a championship,” James said. ”It doesn’t matter what the story line is going to be Jason Spriggs Jersey , it doesn’t matter if we’re picked to win or not. I’m the wrong guy to ask. 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 3-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.
James embraced Horford and Tatum after the buzzer, then the Cavaliers donned celebratory hats and T-shirts before shuffling off the court to receive the Eastern Conference championship trophy.
It’s not the one they want.
James has been in the finals every year since 2011 – four with Miami, and now four straight with Cleveland.
This might be his weakest supporting cast.
He had to do it without Kevin Love – Cleveland’s only other all-star – who sustained a concussion in Game 6 and was replaced in the lineup by Jeff Green. Making his first start since the first-round opener against Indiana, Green scored 19 points and added eight rebounds – the star of James’ starless supporting cast.
”We said we want to do this for Kevin,” Lue said. ”Kevin wanted to play, to be in a Game 7 situation like this in the Eastern Conference Finals, being an All-Star, being our second-best player, and he just wasn’t able to go. The guys picked him up, so now he has another chance when we get to the finals to be ready.”
The Celtics have had more time to get used to their injuries: Gordon Hayward has been out since the first game of the season, and Kyrie Irving has been sidelined since March. With the rookie Tatum and second-year Jaylen Brown, Boston established itself as the team of the future in the East.
”It was pretty incredible run by an incredible group of guys, and an absolute pleasure and privilege to be around them every day,” Stevens said. ”We obviously have a good thing going.”
But the present still belongs to James.
And, for now, that means Cleveland, too.
ADMIRING HIS WORK
The Celtics led by as many as 12 points in the first half, and they had a 51-47 lead midway through the third quarter when James hit a long 3-pointer and then Green made a 3 of his own. James hit Tristan Thompson for an alley-oop to give Cleveland a 55-51 lead Josh Morrissey Jersey , but then James threw the ball away and sent Terry Rozier off on a fast break.
James tracked the Celtics guard from the far sideline, timing his attack. When Rozier went up for the lay-in, James blocked it off the backboard and right to Green. James did not run back down the court, resting up while Green drew a foul at the other end and made one free throw to give the Cavaliers their biggest lead of the game.
Cavaliers: Shot just 2 of 17 from 3-point range in the first half, making three of their first 22 shots from long range before James and Green connected on back-to-back attempts midway through the third quarter.
Celtics: Tatum is the first rookie to have 10 or more playoff games with at least 20 po
CANTON, Ohio (AP) Known as Weapon X when he was a dominant safety, Brian Dawkins recognizes it could have been Weapon P, as in Philadelphia.
Dawkins, who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night, spent 13 seasons as the leader of the Eagles defense, the emotional center of a team that made four straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. The connection with Philly will never fade for a guy who grew up in Florida and attended Clemson.
”They loved me and they will be here to be inducted together with me,” Dawkins said Friday about Eagles fans and the city he grew to love. ”I made it and now they have made it and will experience the Hall of Fame. Enjoy it.
”I played with emotion and passion. The other thing is they recognized I don’t make mistakes. You can boo me for one thing I did wrong, but you won’t ever boo me again because I would not make it again.
”I gave 100 percent of my 100 percent every game. I didn’t back down from anyone or anything in a football game. I was a worker who didn’t make excuses, and that’s Philly.”
Dawkins, who closed out his career with three seasons in Denver, where he also was supremely popular, made five All-Pro teams and was voted the Eagles’ defensive MVP five times. He said making the hall never was on his mind until very late in his career.
”I was thinking it would be cool and wonderful if that happened,” he noted, ”but I didn’t understand at that point it could be possible.”
Hey Brian, it’s possible and true.
WHO’S AN OLD MAN?
Randy Moss is 41 Youth Matt Nieto Jersey , the same age his quarterback during Moss’ greatest season, Tom Brady, reached Friday. Brady shows no signs of slowing down, and Moss believes he could still be effective at wide receiver at his advanced (for football) age.
”My last year (2012 with San Francisco), I didn’t really get the chance to show I could still play,” Moss said. ”At 41 now, I still could play and believe I could score 10 touchdowns. The game itself came easy and I really feel that I could bring that much to the game.”
In his final season, Moss had only 28 receptions and three scores. During his heyday with Minnesota and then New England, he was the most dangerous deep threat in the sport. In 2007, when New England went unbeaten before losing the Super Bowl to the Giants, he had a stunning 23 touchdowns on 98 receptions, gaining 1,493 yards. He was targeted 160 times by Brady that year.
”It was a great ride,” Moss said.
CHUCK NOLL AWARD
The South JeffCo Mustangs from Littleton, Colorado are the winners of the Chuck Noll Hall of Fame Game for Life Award.
The group will be presented with a $10,000 check from The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation.
The award, established last summer, recognizes 50 youth football leagues around the country for their commitment to coaching education; best practices in player safety; teaching lessons about how to win rather than emphasizing winning; and nurturing a culture that celebrates preparation, discipline, accountability and respect through the fun and fitness of football and how it applies to success beyond the field.
Former NFL player Merril Hoge created the award to celebrate the legacy of Noll Youth Da'Ron Payne Jersey , the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who transformed the Pittsburgh Steelers from a downtrodden franchise to one of the most dominant teams in NFL history.
If there have been two more passionate defensive players in recent NFL annals than Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins, they’re hard to identify.
They never were teammates on the Ravens, the only team Lewis played for, but enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame together in the class of 2018. What if they had been on the field together?
”With all the energy he exudes and all I exude,” Dawkins said, ”it would’ve been tough on the other guys (to match). I would’ve loved to have played with him, but man.”
Lewis, who has campaigned for Ed Reed to make the hall when the former Ravens star safety becomes eligible, also has the utmost regard for Dawkins.
”I knew he had a similar chip on his shoulder and that’s why I love BDawk,” Lewis said. ”He’s one of the guys I’d love to have played with. I can’t imagine a football field with me and BDawk on the field together.
”It’s an honor to go into the Hall of Fame with a guy like Brian Dawkins.”
WILL THE TEARS FLOW?
Brian Urlacher says there’s no threat of crying when he practices his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech. As for when he delivers it …
”When I go over it, I am OK,” Urlacher explained. ”But all the guys are telling me I am going to cry during the speech.”
Lots of inductees do, even the toughest of former players. So Urlacher would join a long list of weepers.
Some have joked about an over/under number for how many times Ray Lewis breaks down.
As for Brian Dawkins, he guarantees he’ll cry.
”Tear up? No question. The people I will talk about meant so much to me,” he said Friday at a news conference. ”I’m about to cry now.”