MIAMI — LeBron James finally got a Game 7 victory, on his third try.
Next up, the NBA Finals – and his third try at that elusive first championship.
James had 31 points and 12 rebounds, Chris Bosh hit a career-best three 3-pointers – the last sparking the run that put it away – and the Miami Heat won their second consecutive Eastern Conference title by beating the Boston Celtics 101-88 in Game 7 on Saturday night.
Miami opens the title series in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.
Dwyane Wade scored and Shane Battier added 12 for the Heat, who won a Game 7 for the first time since 2004 – Wade’s rookie season.
Rajon Rondo finished with 22 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for Boston, which got 19 points from Paul Pierce in what might be the last game of the “Big Four” era for the Celtics.
Boston took out its starters with 28.3 seconds left. By then, workers already had a rope around the perimeter of the court, preparing for the East trophy presentation.
Down by seven at the half and eight early in the third quarter, Miami started clawing back. An 8-0 run tied it at 59-all, capped by Wade hitting a jumper, and then the fun really started.
There were six lead changes and five more ties in the final 7 minutes of the third. Bosh scored with 29 seconds left for the last of those ties, and it was 73-all going into the fourth.
Brandon Bass scored 16, Ray Allen finished with 15 and Kevin Garnett scored 14 for the Celtics, who know next season could bring big changes.