MIAMI, April 26 – LeBron James powered the Cleveland Cavaliers within one game of advancing in the NBA playoffs on Sunday while Miami's Dwyane Wade had a stunning performance that denied the Boston Celtics a playoff sweep.Wade scored a career playoff high 46 points to spark the Heat past visiting Boston 101-92, trimming the Celtics’ lead in the best-of-seven opening round series to 3-1 with gave five Tuesday at Boston.
"He has another gear, another depth to go into in his soul, to be able to dig it out and really carry a team on his back with his will," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "When his back is against the wall, it’s an utter defiance."
James scored 37 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and passes out 11 assists to spark the Cleveland Cavaliers past host Chicago 121-98, giving the NBA regular season champions a 3-1 edge in their Eastern Conference playoff matchup.
"I turned myself another notch. I have to be prepared more than anybody else on the team," James said. "This was the most important game of our season."
The fifth career "triple double" for James led a blowout performance by the Cavaliers, who had 24 points from Antawn Jamison and 19 from Mo Williams.
The Bulls were led by 21 points each from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but were unable to keep the pace with Cleveland in the second quarter and unable to rally in the second half.
"It’s all about business," James said. "It’s good to see we’re all on the same page, the same track, and we’re able to take care of business."
The Cavaliers host Chicago in game five Tuesday needing only one more victory to advance as James focuses on winning an NBA title.
"We know we have to get back on defense and play well in transition," James said. "If we can continue to do what we have been doing, we can take care of business."
The Celtics, who could meet the Cavaliers in round two, had won 14 of 15 prior meetings with Miami, including three in the regular season and three in these playoffs.
"It’s not a big deal," Rondo said. "We just have to close it out now in five. We’re confident."
But Wade would not go down without an epic fight. Playing what could have been his final game for the Heat, Wade rallied Miami from a 77-71 deficit entering the fourth quarter after Boston had erased an early 18-point deficit.
"Sometimes he puts on the (super hero) cape" Heat forward Quentin Richardson said. "There’s not a lot of things you can do when he’s playing that way."
Wade, who made 16-of-24 shots in the game and 5-of-7 from 3-point range, plans to opt out of his contract with the Heat and test the free agent market although the superstar guard has said he would like to stay in Miami.
If Sunday was his final home game in a Heat uniform, Wade made certain it was that would long be remembered, outscoring the entire Boston squad 19-15 in the fourth quarter.
"I just thought (it’s) time to be aggressive. Very aggressive," Wade said. "I was shooting all those shots, no matter what was going to happen. And I started to make a couple, so I got hot at the right time.
"Just wanted to will my team to this victory."
Wade’s best prior playoff point total was 43 against Dallas in a game five overtime victory during the 2006 NBA Finals.
Miami squandered an 18-point advantage as Boston went on a 13-2 run late in the third period, taking a 68-64 lead on Ray Allen’s steal and layup on a give-and-go play with Rajon Rondo that concluded the streak, part of a span in which Allen and Rondo had 14 of 16 Boston points.
The Celtics appeared set to finish off the Heat when Wade hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Miami ahead 79-78 and added another to cap a 12-2 run that gave the Heat an 85-80 edge.
"I’m a rhythm player and once I get in that rhythm, I think I can make any shot," Wade said.
Fouled on his next 3-point attempt, Wade sank three free throws to boost Miami’s edge to 88-80 with 8:16 remaining and Mario Chalmers added a lob shot to give the Heat a 90-80 lead.
Kevin Garnett answered for Boston but Wade dropped in another 3-pointer for a 93-80 Miami lead.
"He just put it all on his shoulders and did a good job," Boston’s Paul Pierce said.
The Celtics rallied within 96-92 but Michael Beasley hit a basket for Miami, Wade added a free throw and Richardson added two more free throws in the closing seconds to finish off the victory.
Rondo led the Celtics with 23 points while Garnett added 18, Pierce scored 16 and Ray Allen contributed 15. But Boston could not complete its first sweep in a best-of-seven series since 1986.