|LeBron James was unstoppable in Boston on Thursday night, forcing a Game 7. (Getty Images)|
BOSTON -- Halfway to escaping playoff death thanks to a half for the ages.
The Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics 98-79 to avoid elimination from the playoffs and to even the Eastern Conference finals at three games apiece at TD Garden on Thursday.
NBA MVP LeBron James was the catalyst, scoring 45 points in 45 minutes on 19-for-26 (.731) shooting while grabbing 15 rebounds and dishing five assists. He would have played the entire game but both coaches pulled their starters before the game's conclusion. He
James scored 30 points in a sensational first half that saw him shoot 12-for-14 (.857). At halftime, James had actually outscored all of his teammates put together, as the rest of the Heat combined for just 25 points.
James came close but did not surpass his playoff scoring high: 49 points against the Orlando Magic on May 20, 2009. He did set a new playoff scoring high for a half, eclipsing his previous high of 28 points against the Celtics in the first half on May 7, 2010.
The performance was nearly flawless. At one point, James hit 12 consecutive field goals consecutively after missing his first shot of the game. He poured in points from all angles, including a put-back dunk, multiple turnaround jumpers and a 3-pointer, and regularly worked out of the post to initiate his offense. The only area he struggled: the free throw line, where he shot 5-for-9.
James' scoring career-high (regular season or postseason) is 56 points vs. the Toronto Raptors on March 20, 2005.
The Celtics were led by guard Rajon Rondo, who had 21 points and 10 assists.
Game 7 is set for Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. The winner will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals.