Facing elimination against Boston, the last team he ever faced as a Cavalier, James ensured the Heat’s quest for a title wouldn’t come to an end.
James did have both of his superstar teammates available Thursday night, but they weren’t needed as he proved why he is the most dominant player of his generation.
The Celtics swapped out defenders, guarded him with multiple defenders, tried to employ a zone strategy, none of it was effective as James demolished any and all of his opponents during a 98-79 Miami victory.
Chris Bosh was back in the lineup and he logged 28 minutes, but none of them were necessary.
When James stumbled in the Finals last season, Dwyane Wade became the offensive catalyst. His 17 points were just a contribution to a masterpiece being put together by the league MVP.
Boston formed its Big 3, a team that has eliminated James twice in post season play while in Cleveland, so he fled to Miami to complete the most talked about triumvirate in league history.
In Game 6, James single-handedly picked apart the team that frustrated him so much.
James opened the first quarter by connecting on each of his first six attempts and the scoring onslaught continued for the rest of the night.
Shane Battier sank a 3-pointer to give Miami a 6-4 lead that it never surrendered.
After one quarter, the score was Boston 16-James 14.
Even the beer dumped on him by a fan wasn’t enough to cool him down.
The result was a 45 point, 15 rebound, 5 assist effort, totals not submitted by anyone except for Wilt Chamberlain, as James faced elimination, but didn’t blink.
James did it all, connecting on 19-of-26 field goals, logging 45 minutes, ensuring the Heat finished a rebounding advantage and setting the tone for the entire game.
Fifteen of his made shots were unassisted, as James took a solo approach to slowly control the contest.
Rajon Rondo tried to keep pace, scoring 19 points in the first half, but James was simply on another level. Rondo couldn’t keep up, finishing with 21 points and 10 assists while serving as the only resistance for Boston.
Boston stormed back into the series by winning three straight games, taking Game 5 on the Heat’s home court simply by out-hustling its opponent.
While James continued to impress, averaging 30.8 points per game, highest in the post season, his team let a 2-0 series advantage slip away.
A loss in Boston would have marked the third time in five years the Celtics sent James home.
Forty eight minutes away from elimination, the entire focus was on how James would respond.
Once again under intense pressure, the 27-year-old limited Paul Pierce to nine points on 4-of-18 shooting and offered a response for any rally the Celtics tried to put together.
With a barrage of mid-range jumpers, layups and two shots from 3-point range, anywhere James received the ball was within scoring range.
Even without the ball in his hands, he found a way to send it through the net.
While the offensive display was impressive, Miami forced the Eastern Conference finals to a Game 7 with its suffocating defense.
The Celtics averaged 5.8 made shots from long range over the first five games of the series, punishing Miami whenever it tried to collapse on Rondo when he drove to the basket.
Boston couldn’t find its shooting range Thursday, making just 1-of-14 attempts and shooting 42.7 percent from the field.
In four of the first five games, Boston submitted one 30 point quarter in each contest, but was limited to fewer than 20 points in three of its four quarters during Game 6.
James refused to sit until the game was well in hand, with the Heat leading by 22 with just over three minutes remaining.
Both teams need just one victory to earn the right to face Oklahoma City for the 2012 NBA championship.
For one night, James proved to be the most worthy suitor of a title in the series.