WASHINGTON (AFP) - LeBron James scored 44 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 111-102 on Monday (May 21), levelling the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference Finals at two wins each.
James added five rebounds and three assists to his sixth 40-point performance of this year's playoffs - the most 40-point playoff efforts in a single year since Allen Iverson in 2001.
"I've just put a lot of work in," said James of his scoring heroics at age 33. "The Man Above has given me some abilities I try to take advantage of. I take care of my body and try to put myself in position to do the best I can."
The best-of-seven showdown continues on Wednesday at Boston, where the Celtics are undefeated in these playoffs, with Game 6 on Friday in Cleveland, where the Cavs have won seven in a row.
"There's no love in there if you're not wearing green," James said. "They are playing extremely confidently. If we play like we did in (Games) 3 and 4, I think we'll have a good shot."
The winner will face either defending champions Golden State or season wins leaders Houston in the NBA Finals starting on May 31.
The Celtics never managed to recover from Cleveland's ferocious start.
James had five points in a 10-0 run that gave the Cavs a 19-10 edge on the way to a 34-18 lead after the first quarter. Cleveland closed the period on a 13-3 run and the Celtics missed three dunks in the opening 12 minutes.
He scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half and Kyle Korver added 14 points off the bench - all in the first half - as the Cavaliers seized a 68-53 half-time advantage.
"He's the best in the game at evaluating the game and figuring out what he wants and where he wants it," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of James. "You have to make it as tough on him as possible."
Although the Celtics trailed by as many as 19 in the second quarter, they trimmed the deficit to 89-76 entering the fourth quarter.
"We cut it back to eight in the fourth. We had some shots we'd like to have back," Stevens said. "All I want is for us to take good shots. We've got to play better than we did."
Tristan Thompson added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Jaylen Brown led Boston with 25 points while Jason Tatum netted 17, Terry Rozier contributed 16 points and 11 assists and Al Horford added 15 points.