MIAMI -- LeBron James has stopped watching basketball, using Twitter and has tried to free his mind by reading novels during the playoffs. But that has not dulled his sense of history when it comes to tonight’s Game 7 against his longtime rivals.
James will face off against the Boston Celtics in a playoff game for the 25th time in the past five years. So far the score is Celtics 12, James 12. With a trip to the Finals on the line and the uncertainty of the Celtics' future with the upcoming free agency of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the outcome of this game might just settle the long-running rivalry.
“It's only right, it's only fitting for me that I would play them in the postseason some way, shape or form to get to the Finals,” James said Saturday afternoon. “I did it last year, did it the previous two years in Cleveland. It's been the same for me. I understand what they're capable of, I understand what their makeup is. I've faced every last one of them, those same four guys have been there since I've been playing in the postseason.”
The last time James played in a Game 7 against the Celtics was in 2008, when he and Paul Pierce staged a memorable battle at TD Garden, James scoring 45 points and Pierce putting up 41 in the Celtics’ victory. When James scored 45 points in another elimination game in Boston on Thursday, he became the second player ever to do it more than once in his career. The only other was Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 45 or more points five times in his career.
But even with the momentum, James has such a history of dealing with these Celtics that he knows how difficult tonight could be. Especially with the possibility that it could be the last time this Boston team plays in its current state.
“Those guys are warriors, they're champions,” James said. “They're determined not to let this be their last hurrah or whatever the case may be. I'm not a part of their front office. But they're very determined.”
It’s been such a hotly-contested series with officiating, injuries, lineup switches and performance in the clutch dominating the focus. But James is not alone in letting himself think about the historical perspective. Depending on what happens in Game 7, there could be lots of changes to both teams and that only increases the drama.
“I tell players that all the time, there are no guarantees for next year,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
“Every year you have to play like this is the last time this group you're with will ever play together. And most of the time that's going to be true whether you win or lose. It's at stake for both teams, you can never take any season for granted. Hell, we win this series, it may not be the same Miami team next year. So I think we understand that, but I think they do, too. And so I think both teams feel that type of pressure.”