Miami, FL – Game 7 wasn't a one-man show.
LeBron James, coming off an iconic performance, was aided by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on Saturday and the Heat turned it on late to defeat the Celtics, 101-88, and earn a trip to the NBA Finals for the second straight season.
The game was tied entering the fourth quarter, where James, Wade and Bosh combined to score all 28 of Miami's points.
James finished with a game-high 31 for the Heat, who lost to the Mavericks in last year's finals and are looking to secure their first NBA title since 2005-06.
They will visit the Oklahoma City Thunder for Game 1 on Tuesday, looking again to silence their critics and prove they are capable of the big things expected of them when the James-Wade-Bosh threesome was put together.
"I can't worry about what people say about me, about my game, about who I am as a person. I can't get involved in that. People have their own opinions, and rightfully so," James said. "For me, I just go out and play at a high level and do whatever it takes for us to win."
Wade scored 23 and Bosh had 19 and eight boards in just his third game back from an abdominal strain. Shane Battier made four three-pointers and Mario Chalmers chipped in nine points.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are facing the potential and seemingly inevitable end of an era.
Rajon Rondo led the way with 22 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds while Paul Pierce scored 19. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, both set to become free agents, finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Brandon Bass added 16 points -- although 14 came in the first half, where the Celtics built an 11- point lead.
"Up to this point we fought hard to keep it together, so now there are just so many emotions," said Allen. "This one hit me hard. We wanted it so bad."
After falling behind 2-0, Boston won three straight in the series and had a chance to close out Miami on Thursday, but James turned in a spectacular game, finishing with 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a blowout win.
His jumper wasn't falling with the same regularity on Saturday, but he consistently forced his way to the basket and made 12-of-17 free throws.
His first assist came with just over seven minutes remaining, when he found Bosh in the corner for one of the power forward's three treys, which gave the Heat an 86-82 lead.
"We kind of knew in big time situations that (the three-pointer) would be open and that I would be able to shoot it without hesitation," said Bosh.
On the previous play, the three-time and reigning MVP crossed over Bass at the top of the key and went in for a high-flying, one-handed slam.
After finding Bosh, James knocked down a three of his own and Wade later scored five straight, getting a short floater to go before completing a three- point play, which made it 98-86 and virtually sealed Miami's return to the finals.
The Heat may have dominated Game 6 but this one was different and the Celtics were up to the task in the early going.
James scored the first two points of the night but Boston was in control for the majority of the first quarter. Garnett put his team up by seven with a putback and the advantage reached 23-14 before Greg Stiemsma subbed in for the Celtics' most valuable big man.
Miami quickly took advantage and cut its deficit to 25-23 on a pair of free throws from James, who scored eight points in the quarter. Rondo responded with a jumper, giving Boston a four-point lead after one.
Garnett picked up his third foul midway through the second quarter and went to the bench shortly after that, but this time the Celtics held fast. The main reason was Bass, who carried the scoring load while acting as the primary defender on James.
Late in the half, he stole a pass at the top of the key and barreled in for a two-handed dunk over Wade, giving the Celtics a 49-38 lead -- their largest of the game. The play epitomized the action over the first two quarters, as the Celtics racked up 14 points on 10 Miami turnovers over that span.
With Garnett in foul trouble, Pierce and Allen were also key early. Pierce had more points in the opening half -- 13 -- than he did in all of Game 6 -- nine -- and Allen added 12, including a layup shortly before the buzzer, for a 53-46 lead at the break.
Miami scored eight straight to tie the game early in the third quarter. Battier hit a three-pointer during the run and Wade capped it with a pullup jumper over Allen.
Rondo had 10 points in the frame, including a trey in the final minute, but Bosh drained a 20-footer shortly before the buzzer for a 73-73 tie entering the fourth.
Bosh went 8-of-10 from the field and connected on 3-of-4 three-pointers...This was the 111th Game 7 in NBA history and the home teams own an 89-22 advantage...No franchise has played in more Game 7s that Boston, which fell to 21-8 all-time with Saturday's loss...The Heat improved to 3-3 all-time in Game 7s.