LeBron James booked his eighth straight National Basketball Association finals appearance, delivering another epic game-seven performance on the road as the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied to beat the Boston Celtics 87-79 on Sunday.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtic attack with 24 points as Boston suffered their only loss in 11 home games during the play-offs.
James has now been to eight straight finals - four with the Heat, four with the Cavaliers - but could leave Cleveland for a second time this offseason.
Stevens, by the way, was pleased with how Boston defended James and limited open looks for his supporting cast. This is a team that made a franchise-changing trade last summer, remade the roster at the trade deadline, finished 29th in defensive rating in the regular season and nearly lost a seven-game series against the Indiana Pacers in the first round.
"It was asked of me tonight to play the whole game", he said.
As Sunday night bled into Monday morning at TD Garden, the Cleveland Cavaliers closed the door on the latest version of their 2017-18. Paul essentially gives the Rockets two point guards in himself and James Harden, and allows Harden so much more freedom and spacing to be an elite scorer.
5 takeaways from LeBron’s eighth-straight Eastern Conference Finals win
Although the Celtics were playing on their home court, they had less pressure on them in the grand scheme of things. Al Horford finished with 17 points and Jaylen Brown had 13 but he was just three-of-12 from the three-point line.
James' Herculean effort allowed the Cavs to beat a young but gritty Boston side in their thrilling 7-game series yesterday. I mean, by now you know the drill. A Cleveland win further cements LeBron's legacy and they will have done it without Kevin Love who is in concussion protocol. "It's just so intense in the playoffs and getting to the Finals and now the Finals, I don't think - and I know he doesn't - I don't think even our guys are talking (about anything other than) what's in front of them".
It's the presence of players like Tatum and second-year swingman Jaylen Brown, coupled with the expected return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward that leaves Boston optimistic about its chances to trek deeper in the playoffs in the future. "That's the fun part", Stevens said. "We obviously have a good thing going".
Green's 3-pointer with 4:56 left in the third quarter put Cleveland up 53-51, the Cavs' first lead since the opening minutes. When Rozier went up for the lay-in, James blocked it off the backboard and right to Green.
James led that comeback to Cleveland's first title, and now he's got a shot for another unlikely one.
After Terry Rozier stole a pass from James, the Celtics point guard raced up the court and, despite having a three-on-one situation, attempted to dunk on the Cavs superstar. "That's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell". Tatum became the first rookie since Abdul-Jabbar to register 10 games of 20+ points in a single postseason. Paul Pierce, whose number was retired by the Celtics this season, cheered the team on from courtside. He is also now 14-9 in elimination games.
Boston wound up shooting 34.1 percent from the floor, including 17.9 percent from 3-point range (7 of 39).