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Miami Heat's LeBron James during the second half of Game 6 of their NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series against the Indiana Pacers Thursday, May 24, 2012, in Indianapolis. Miami defeated Indiana 105-93. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
NBA playoffs: LeBron James promises ‘I won’t regret Game 7’

After saving Miami’s season Thursday, LeBron James vows to leave it all on the court in the series finale.

First Published Jun 08 2012 05:18 pm • Last Updated Sep 11 2012 11:33 pm

Miami • LeBron James has no idea what he will do for an encore.

He offered a simple vow instead.

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"I won’t regret Game 7," James said.

There may not have been another sentiment the Miami Heat would have preferred hearing more as they prepare to host the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.

James is coming off a season-saving 45-point, 15-rebound, five-assist effort to force Game 7. The winner will head to Oklahoma City to start the NBA Finals on Tuesday night and the loser heads into an offseason of decided uncertainty.

"Win, lose or draw, I’m going to go in with the mindset like I’ve had this whole season," James said. "And you know, we’ll see what happens."

A series that has gone back and forth — Miami won the first two games, then lost three straight before James carried the Heat to a win that denied Boston the East crown on Thursday night — comes down to an ultimate game.

For the Heat, it’s a chance to play for the ring they couldn’t win last year in the opening act of the Big Three era. For the Celtics, it’s probably one last chance for their current core to reach the NBA’s mountaintop.

"This team has been about adversity all year long, you know, so this is not going to be nothing new," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. "It’s been tough for us all year long to get to the point where we would be at, and why wouldn’t it be tough now? Winning is hard. Trying to get to the Finals is hard. And this is as hard as it gets. And I think we are prepared for it."

It’s the 111th time a best-of-seven NBA series has gone the distance. Home teams are 88-22 in the previous matchups.

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That means little to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. The last time Boston was on his team’s court, the Celtics sputtered offensively and still managed to leave with a win, taking Game 5 to put Miami on the brink.

The Heat are still there. Only this time, so are the Celtics.

"Both teams will come out with an appropriate level of urgency," Spoelstra said. "And that’s the beauty of a Game 7. We fought and earned the right to have this on our home court. We don’t take that for granted and we don’t assume that that will take care of anything. We’re going to have to play, compete at the same urgency level we played last night. And we’ll also have to play well and probably have to beat them when they’re at their best."

If James has the same game he had Thursday, the Celtics will have to beat him at his best.

The reigning MVP put on a show in Game 6. The expression on James’ face barely changed all night — after makes, after misses, even after a drink got dumped on him while leaving the court not long after the final buzzer of Miami’s 98-79 win. He made 19 of 26 shots, that 73 percent success rate the best he ever posted in a playoff game. His 30 first-half points matched an NBA season high. His 45 points were second-most in Heat playoff history.

"Sometimes superstars get hot," Pierce said.

"He’s been playing unbelievable," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.

"One of the best this league has ever seen," Heat forward Chris Bosh said.

Of course, if the Heat lose on Saturday, that performance will soon be forgotten.

For the Celtics, this will be their seventh Game 7 in the last five years — they’re 4-2 in the previous ones, including a home win over Philadelphia one round ago. James is averaging 34 points per game in the series, the Celtics are getting both outshot and outrebounded, their best shooter in Ray Allen has been slowed by ankle pain and Pierce is shooting 34 percent.

Here they are, one win from the finals anyway, even after all that and getting written off plenty of times during the regular season.

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