Celtics take control of East, beat Heat 94-90
By TIM REYNOLDS
Posted Jun 06 2012 3:48AM
MIAMI (AP) When the Boston Celtics last left Miami, they were on the ropes. Down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals. Unable to solve LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. On the cusp of being ousted by the Heat for a second straight season.
Three games and three wins later, the plot could not be more different as they sauntered out of Miami this time.
And for one of sports’ most storied franchises, yet another trip to the NBA finals might be looming.
Kevin Garnett finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 19 – including a huge 3-pointer over James’ outstretched arm with 52.9 seconds left – and the Celtics beat the Heat 94-90 on Tuesday night, stealing home-court advantage and taking a 3-2 lead in the East finals that now shift to Boston for Game 6 on Thursday night.
“This is like a heavyweight bout,” Garnett said.
If so, it’s the Celtics who have fought their way off the ropes.
They trailed by 13 in the second quarter, by nine in the third, by six with 6 minutes left to play. And every time, they answered – a 22-11 run to close the half, a 15-1 run to end the third and a 22-12 run to end the game. A trio of comebacks, a trio of wins, and a chance to oust Miami’s Big Three one round earlier than the Heat ever imagined.
“We’ve done nothing,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We’re playing a heck of a basketball team. So just because we’re going to Boston, I told them, we have to play. They’re not going to give it to us. We have to go get it.”
James finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, though he went 8 minutes without scoring in the final quarter. Wade scored 27 for the Heat, who got no more than nine from anyone else, even with Chris Bosh returning to the lineup after missing nine games with a strained lower abdominal muscle. Bosh gritted his way through 14 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds.
“We wouldn’t want to be in this situation but we never get too high or too low in a series,” James said. “We had an opportunity to come home and take a lead, but we didn’t. So we have to go up to Boston and win a game.”
Pierce’s 3 put Boston up 90-86. Miami got within two points twice, and argued that it should have had a steal with 8.8 seconds left. Instead, a foul was called on Udonis Haslem, Garnett made two free throws, and the Celtics knew they had just stolen one on Miami’s home floor.
Now all they need is one home win of their own to clinch a trip to either Oklahoma City or San Antonio for Game 1 of the NBA finals. The title series starts June 12.
“Right now,” Celtics guard Ray Allen said, “the next game is Game 7.”