BOSTON — LeBron James refused to let another season end in Boston.
The Eastern Conference Finals, and his chase of an NBA championship, are headed back to Miami for a Game 7.
James had 45 points and 15 rebounds, overwhelming the Celtics and leading the Heat to a 98-79 victory Thursday night that forced the decisive game.
Pushing away elimination right along with every defender who tried to stop him, James shot 19 of 26 from the field and finished four points shy of his playoff career-high while playing 45 minutes, not sitting down until the victory was long secured.
Dwyane Wade added 17 points for the Heat, who need a victory at home Saturday to return to the NBA Finals. Miami advanced the the finals last season, but was defeated by Dallas in six games.
Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 10 assists for Boston. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass each scored 12 points, but Paul Pierce had only nine on 4 of 18 shooting.
At the site of some of James’ biggest disappointments, the only disappointed ones Thursday were the thousands of fans who hoped to see a celebration but instead filed out of the TD Garden midway through the fourth quarter, just before the league MVP called it a night.
Miami barely won Game 2 before dropping the next three games, but this one was never in doubt. James was a one-man force on what’s supposed to be a Big Three, carrying the Heat in the first half while Wade made only 1 of 6 shots.
The Celtics were hoping to complete a comeback from a 2-0 deficit, as Oklahoma City did, and advance to face the Thunder in the NBA Finals. But they missed 13 of 14 3-point attempts and will have to win a second consecutive game in Miami to play for the title.
Miami’s Chris Bosh came off the bench to score seven points and grab six rebounds. The former Georgia Tech star played just over 28 minutes in his second game back from a lower abdominal strain suffered during the Heat’s series against the Indiana Pacers.