The Boston Celtics blew an 18-point first-half lead before pulling out a 93-91 overtime win against the Miami Heat that ties the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference finals at two games each.
Paul Pierce scored 23 points and Rajon Rondo added 15 points and 15 assists for the Celtics, who won their second straight game at Boston’s TD Garden last night after consecutive losses in Miami. They held on for the win as Dwyane Wade’s 3- point shot for Miami bounced off the rim as time expired.
“I thought it looked good when it left his hands,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said at a news conference. “The avoiding of the foul was as big as anything else. I thought the defensive possession was really good, we denied Wade as long as we could. We were ready if he drove.”
The best-of-seven playoff series now shifts back to Miami for Game 5 tomorrow, with Game 6 two days later in Boston. The Eastern Conference winner advances to the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder, who continue the Western Conference finals tonight in San Antonio tied 2-2.
Home teams have won all eight games so far in the NBA’s conference finals.
“It’s the top four teams in this league and that’s what it’s about -- both conferences are protecting home court right now,” said James, who scored 29 points to lead the Heat before fouling out in overtime. “We look forward to going back home to our own fans.”
The Celtics opened a 21-6 first-quarter lead last night at TD Garden, led by 18 points at one point in the second quarter and as many as 16 points in the second half.
The Heat fought back and took their first lead of the game at 76-74 with 8:22 remaining. The teams exchanged the lead several times in the closing minutes before James hit a tying 3- pointer for Miami with 37 seconds left.
The Heat had a chance to win after Kevin Garnett was whistled for an offensive foul with 21 seconds remaining, though Udonis Haslem was well short on a contested 18-foot jump shot off a pass from James as the buzzer sounded.
With the score tied 89-89 after four quarters, each team managed only one basket in the five-minute overtime period.
While Pierce fouled out for the Celtics 38 seconds into the extra session, Rondo gave Boston the lead for good at 92-91 on a 2-point shot with 2:32 left. James missed a 9-foot jumper for the Heat and then was called for an offensive foul on the following possession, fouling out of a game for the first time since joining Miami.
Rondo added a free throw with 21 seconds left before Wade misfired on his 25-foot shot at the buzzer. Wade finished with 20 points, while Haslem and Mario Chalmers each scored 12.
“We have to come in with a sense of urgency,” James said. “We look forward to Game 5. It’s great basketball. We didn’t come in thinking they were going to sweep them. This is what the playoffs are all about.”
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