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Boston bound: LeBron pushes Cavs to Game 7 vs. Celtics

CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James chose Boston as the place he'll play next.

Game 7 is on. And any talk about James' future is on hold.

Delivering another performance for the ages, James scored 46 points and preserved his reign atop the Eastern Conference for at least one more game as the Cleveland Cavaliers shook off losing All-Star Kevin Love with a head injury and beat the Celtics 109-99 on Friday night to force a decisive climax to this back-and-forth series.

James, playing in perhaps his final game for the Cavs in Cleveland, added 11 rebounds and nine assists while playing all but two minutes - to avoid elimination and delay any decisions about where he'll continue his remarkable career next season.

''Greatness,'' Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. ''Championship pedigree. Giving it his all. We needed that, especially when Kevin went down. We had to play `Bron as many minutes as he had to. He delivered. He was up for the challenge. He carried us home as usual.''

The king is not dead, and he still has a chance to make his eighth straight NBA Finals.

This series, in which home court has meant everything, will have a fitting conclusion Sunday at TD Garden, where the Celtics are 10-0 this postseason.

''It's a Game 7,'' James said. ''It's something that you wish you had when you're done playing, but more than that, it's just basketball for me. I know what I'm capable of doing, and I'm going to trust everything I put into it.''

George Hill added 20 points, and Jeff Green 14 for the Cavs, who lost Love in the first quarter after he banged heads with Boston rookie Jayson Tatum.

Terry Rozier paced the Celtics - now 1-6 on the road - with 28 points, and Jaylen Brown had 27.

The Celtics were still within seven in the final three minutes before James made consecutive 3-pointers, punctuating the second by pounding his chest with both fists and screaming along with 20,562 others.

''The love of the game,'' James said, explaining his reaction. ''It's a feeling you can't explain.''

Just for good measure, he added a three-point play and then was taken out of the game to a rousing ovation and chants of ''Cavs in 7!''

Boston's improbable run through the postseason without injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will now take the Celtics back home, where they play with more intensity, togetherness and before fans hungry to see an 18th title banner raised to their arena's rafters.

''It's not going to be pretty,'' Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. ''We've got to come out ready to get our nose bloody and our mouth bloody. We've got to come out ready to fight. You've got to find a way, whatever it takes.''

Love went out with a head injury in the first quarter, forcing Lue to juggle his rotations and keep James on the floor longer than he wanted to. The three-time champion played the first 35 minutes without a break and then endured the final eight while nursing a right leg.

James didn't know until after the game that teammate Larry Nance Jr. had banged into him.

''I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg,'' he said. ''I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I've seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one's leg standing straight up. Luckily, I was able to finish the game.''

Hill, who came over in a deadline trade, has been awed by what James has done in this postseason.

''I've been in the league for some years and ran across him on the other side and really hated his guts,'' said Hill, who was on Indiana teams eliminated by James. ''But to have him on our side, it kind of lets me take a deep breath of fresh air. It's just something that you really can't explain what he's doing night in, night out. It's just something special.''

''I thought the best was when he always put us out. But to actually see it when he's on your team, I can't even put it into words.''

The real possibility that James was playing his last game in Cleveland hung over the game - and this city - in the hours leading to tip-off. Everyone had an opinion on what James will do next and that discussion filled the sports talk radio airwaves, bars and barber shops.

The 33-year-old has said several times since coming home in 2014 that he wants to retire with the Cavaliers, but fans are uneasy because he can opt out of his $35.6 million contract this summer and test free agency.

And, of course, he left in 2010.

James has said he'll sit down after the season ends to decide next move, and he's already being courted in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York where fans can only dream of him joining their rosters.

For now, he's only going to Boston.

NO LOVE

The game began ominously for the Cavs as Love was forced to leave following his violent collision with Tatum.

Love and Tatum were away from the ball and didn't see each other until it was too late. They banged heads and both immediately dropped to the floor with Love raising his left arm as if to signal he needed help.

As Love stayed down, the Cavs huddled around him. He was helped off and walked to the bench unsteadily before heading to the locker room for further treatment and evaluation.

His status for Game 7 is uncertain.

THE OTHER SIDE

Tatum stayed in following his nasty collision with Love. The rookie passed the concussion testing that he was given on the bench.

''I didn't see him coming, it was bad,'' Tatum said. ''I have a knot on the back of my head and he didn't return. I wish the best for Kevin Love because he's a great player and it's been a long season.''

PREGAME MEAL

Hill said he's played well after eating has tacos with barbacoa and guacamole before games.

''I'm for sure going to find a Chipotle in Boston, I'll tell you that,'' he said.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Own a 37-0 record when leading a series 2-0. ... Dropped to 1-4 in Game 6s over the last four postseasons. ... Coach Brad Stevens praised James for his consistency, and ability to exceed expectations. ''Nobody else has what he has on his shoulders playing the game,'' he said. ''I think that the way in which he's done that and all of the years now that he's made The Finals and gone deep into the playoffs, it's unbelievable.''

Cavaliers: Improved to 6-2 in elimination game since 2015. James has scored at least 40 in five of those wins. ... James' teams are 5-2 in Game 7s. ... This was the seventh 40-point game for James this postseason. Michael Jordan also had seven, one off Jerry West's record set in 1965. ... James passed Karl Malone (2,062) for sixth place on the career postseason rebounds list.

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Key Players
A. Horford
42 C
L. James
23 SF
36.9 Min. Per Game 36.9
27.5 Pts. Per Game 27.5
9.1 Ast. Per Game 9.1
8.6 Reb. Per Game 8.6
48.6 Field Goal % 54.2
48.7 Three Point % 54.3
77.4 Free Throw % 72.9
+ 2 Greg Monroe made hook shot 0:23
  Defensive rebound by Guerschon Yabusele 0:34
  George Hill missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:38
  Defensive rebound by Cedi Osman 0:55
  Semi Ojeleye missed 2nd of 2 free throws 0:57
+ 1 Semi Ojeleye made 1st of 2 free throws 0:57
  Personal foul on LeBron James 0:57
  Defensive rebound by Semi Ojeleye 0:57
  LeBron James missed free throw 0:57
  Shooting foul on Jaylen Brown 0:57
+ 2 LeBron James made running Jump Shot 0:57
Team Stats
Points 99 109
Field Goals 38-74 (51.4%) 41-87 (47.1%)
3-Pointers 12-28 (42.9%) 9-23 (39.1%)
Free Throws 11-20 (55.0%) 18-22 (81.8%)
Total Rebounds 41 54
Offensive 5 15
Defensive 26 29
Team 10 10
Assists 25 16
Steals 5 8
Blocks 2 9
Turnovers 13 9
Fouls 18 19
Technicals 0 0
28 PTS, 3 REB, 7 AST
46 PTS, 11 REB, 9 AST
1234T
away team logo Celtics 3-3 2518302699
home team logo Cavaliers 3-3 20342926109
Team Stats
away team logo Celtics 3-3 111.5 PPG 46.4 RPG 25.1 APG
home team logo Cavaliers 3-3 103.4 PPG 43.9 RPG 19.9 APG
Key Players
T. Rozier PG 8.5 PPG 4.2 RPG 2.6 APG 38.6 FG%
L. James SF PPG RPG APG FG%
Top Scorers
T. Rozier PG 28 PTS 3 REB 7 AST
L. James SF 46 PTS 11 REB 9 AST
51.4 FG% 47.1
42.9 3PT FG% 39.1
55.0 FT% 81.8
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
T. Rozier 39 28 3 7 2 0 1 3 10/16 6/10 2/2 0 3 46 -12
J. Brown 33 27 3 1 0 0 0 3 11/18 2/5 3/6 1 2 32 -11
J. Tatum 39 15 3 2 1 0 2 3 7/13 1/3 0/0 0 3 21 -8
A. Horford 37 6 9 4 0 1 2 3 2/8 0/2 2/4 2 7 22 -14
A. Baynes 18 0 4 2 0 0 1 2 0/1 0/1 0/0 0 4 7 -11
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
T. Rozier 39 28 3 7 2 0 1 3 10/16 6/10 2/2 0 3 46 -12
J. Brown 33 27 3 1 0 0 0 3 11/18 2/5 3/6 1 2 32 -11
J. Tatum 39 15 3 2 1 0 2 3 7/13 1/3 0/0 0 3 21 -8
A. Horford 37 6 9 4 0 1 2 3 2/8 0/2 2/4 2 7 22 -14
A. Baynes 18 0 4 2 0 0 1 2 0/1 0/1 0/0 0 4 7 -11
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
M. Morris 30 10 2 1 0 0 2 2 3/10 2/3 2/4 1 1 12 -7
M. Smart 32 10 3 8 1 1 3 1 4/7 1/4 1/2 1 2 28 -4
G. Monroe 5 2 2 0 1 0 2 1 1/1 0/0 0/0 0 2 3 +8
S. Ojeleye 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 1/2 0 1 2 +3
A. Nader 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 0 0 +3
G. Yabusele 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 1 1 +3
X. Silas - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G. Hayward - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Irving - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
S. Larkin - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Bird - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Allen - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Gibson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Theis - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 236 99 31 25 5 2 13 18 38/74 12/28 11/20 5 26 174 -50
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
L. James 46 46 11 9 3 1 3 2 17/33 5/7 7/11 3 8 76 +15
G. Hill 33 20 3 3 2 1 1 1 7/12 0/3 6/6 2 1 31 -1
J. Smith 38 5 3 0 0 1 0 4 2/7 1/5 0/0 0 3 9 -1
T. Thompson 22 2 4 1 0 2 1 2 1/2 0/0 0/0 1 3 9 +4
K. Love 5 0 4 0 0 0 0 1 0/3 0/1 0/0 2 2 4 -4
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
L. James 46 46 11 9 3 1 3 2 17/33 5/7 7/11 3 8 76 +15
G. Hill 33 20 3 3 2 1 1 1 7/12 0/3 6/6 2 1 31 -1
J. Smith 38 5 3 0 0 1 0 4 2/7 1/5 0/0 0 3 9 -1
T. Thompson 22 2 4 1 0 2 1 2 1/2 0/0 0/0 1 3 9 +4
K. Love 5 0 4 0 0 0 0 1 0/3 0/1 0/0 2 2 4 -4
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Green 31 14 3 2 0 2 2 2 4/10 1/3 5/5 0 3 21 +10
L. Nance Jr. 21 10 7 1 2 0 0 1 5/5 0/0 0/0 4 3 21 +10
J. Clarkson 14 6 5 0 0 0 0 2 3/9 0/1 0/0 3 2 11 +11
K. Korver 26 6 3 0 1 2 2 4 2/6 2/3 0/0 0 3 10 +8
C. Osman 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 1 1 -2
R. Hood - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Zizic - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
O. White - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Perkins - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Calderon - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 237 109 44 16 8 9 9 19 41/87 9/23 18/22 15 29 193 +50