It may have been LeBron James’ last game as a Cleveland Cavalier, but for the Boston Celtics, Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals was business as usual. Boston has preached “team” all season and it paid off in a 94-85 victory on  Thursday, May 13 which clinched the series over Cleveland, 4-2.

Kevin Garnett recorded a team-high 22 points and 12 rebounds while Rajon Rondo—who out-performed James throughout the series—registered 21 points, 12 assists and five steals. While James wasn’t his usual dominating self, possibly still feeling the effects of a right elbow injury, he still led Cleveland with 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists but committed an uncharacteristic nine turnovers.

Aside from the disappointing loss, another early playoff exit for the upcoming free agent will surely spark what should be one of the most interesting off-seasons in NBA history. James will become one of the most sought-after free agents ever, and may bolt Cleveland for a team with which he can win a championship.

“I want to win. That’s my only thing, my only concern,” James said during a post-game press conference when asked about his upcoming free agency. “I’ve always prided myself …it’s all about winning for me and I think the Cavs are committed to doing that. But at the same time, I’ve given myself options to this point. Me and my team, we have a game plan that we’ll execute and we’ll see where we’re at.”

For Boston, execution of their game plan in Game 6 was nothing short of easy. Though many experts had written off the team after a lackluster regular season, Boston may finally be showing the championship stride it flashed a few seasons ago when it toppled the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

After a neck-and-neck first half, Boston opened up a 14-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. But a pair of back-to-back three-pointers by James helped slice their lead to 78-74 with just over eight minutes left. Boston would answer back with a Rondo layup and a couple of three-pointers to extend the lead back to 14 points with 5:52 remaining to close the door on Cleveland—and possibly James’ tenure with the team.

“The fact that it’s over right now is definitely a surprise to me,” James said. “A friend of mine told me, ‘I guess you’ve got to go through a lot of nightmares before you realize your dream.’ That’s what’s going on for me individually right now.”

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO