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BASKETBALL > Celtics NBA on the brink of reac hing Celtics NBA finals

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Veteran Boston Celtics claim a crucial 94-90 away victory against the Miami Heat to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference final series. If the Celtics can win again when the series return to Boston’s home court, The Garden, they will deny ‘the Big Three’ of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh of a spot in the final

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Boston Celtics’ power forward Kevin 
Garnett (L) produced 26 points and 11 rebounds against the Miami Heat while Paul Pierce sank the go-ahead three-point shot in the last minute of the game. The Miami Heat players were dejected after the defeat. EPA photo

Boston Celtics’ power forward Kevin Garnett (L) produced 26 points and 11 rebounds against the Miami Heat while Paul Pierce sank the go-ahead three-point shot in the last minute of the game. The Miami Heat players were dejected after the defeat. EPA photo

The Boston Celtics drew on their famous grit and determination to move within one victory of the NBA Finals on June 5 with an upset 94-90 road win over the Miami Heat to take a 3-2 series lead.

The Celtics can now secure the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals back home in Boston tonight after Miami’s vaunted offense spluttered in the second half.

LeBron James scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade poured in 27 but the Heat now face the distinct possibility of missing out on the finals completely as they bid to make up for the disappointment of losing last year’s title showdown.

For the Heat, the equation is brutally simple - win or else the second season of the ‘Big Three’ era will end in underachievement.

“It is going to be an extremely difficult time but that’s what the playoffs are about,” forward Chris Bosh told reporters, when asked about the coming two days of preparation for the game.

“In order to get to where we want to go, we’re going to have to face huge challenges and I think we are in the biggest challenge of our lives right now, of our professional careers.

“We have to overcome it. It is going to be very, very difficult but that’s how it is supposed to be,” he said. Another member of Miami’s ‘Big Three’, Dwyane Wade, was under no illusions about the magnitude of the task facing the Heat in Boston but was sure they can get out of the hole they find themselves in.

Responding to desperation

“We normally respond really well to desperation. We are a confident team, we haven’t won much in that arena but we won one last year that gives us the confidence that we can go up there and get the win,” Wade said. “But we have to play a great game, as close to perfection as possible.

“At this point, it is not about schemes or about play-calling it is about ‘mano a mano’ and see who comes out in the next game and wants it the most”.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra saw the series in boxing terms.

“You have to go back to your corner right now. We all just have to huddle up and lean on each other. We’re the only people we can depend on right now and that can be a powerful thing.

“All we have to do is focus on winning Game Six, then all of a sudden, bang, that momentum changes again,” he said.

Rondo leads play

On Tuesday, Rajon Rondo was the architect of Miami’s demise for Boston with 13 assists on a night where he shot only 3-of-15, while Kevin Garnett was the chief executioner with 26 points and 11 rebounds. But above all, Boston was able to draw on its fighting spirit once again as it fought back from a 13-point deficit in the second quarter and from nine points behind in the third. “We were just hanging in there,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. “They jumped on us at the beginning of the game and we told our guys ‘don’t over-react, hang in there, the longer we are in the game, the better we’ll play’.

“I thought out execution down the stretch, defensively and offensively... was terrific,” he added.
It was far from a classic encounter, however, with Miami shooting at 39 percent from the field and managing just 7-of-26 three-point attempts as defenses dominated.

The work was spread around for Boston with Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus scoring 13 each and Brandon Bass chipping in with ten points.

The game’s decisive moment came when Paul Pierce (19 points) nailed a three-pointer over LeBron James, who tallied 30 points for the ninth time this post-season, with 52.9 seconds remaining to give the visitors a 90-86 lead.

Miami could not come back from that blow and now the pressure is really on the Heat for a do-or-die encounter at ‘the Garden’.

“It was a tough one to lose here at home but it’s over with. It has to be behind us right now and our energies have to be ready for Thursday,” Spoelstra said.

June/07/2012

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