Celtics win to even up series with Heat
BOSTON -- LeBron James and Paul Pierce were on their teams' respective benches watching the end of this thrilling game, unable to return after fouling out.
After Dwyane Wade misfired on a three-pointer at the buzzer, Pierce and the Celtics celebrated a 93-91 overtime win over the Heat Sunday night that tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals at 2-2.
James tried to will Wade's shot in with body language, but all he could do after it hit the front of the rim and then the backboard was lower his shoulders and head.
"Red [Auerbach] wasn't going to let that go in, you know that, not at Boston Garden," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought it looked good when it left his hands."
The Celtics appeared in control of the game after a dominating first half in which they led by 18, but they had to fight to the end to even the series.
It was the second time in this series the Celtics squandered a big lead and went to overtime. They blew a 15-point cushion and fell in OT in Game 2. But this time they were able to finish off the Heat, outscoring Miami 4-2 in the extra session.
It's now a best-of-three, with the Heat holding the home-court advantage. Game 5 is Tuesdayin Miami, and the Celtics are heading there confident. "We have yet to play a good 48-minute game,'' Rivers said. "We still have that in us."
Pierce scored 18 of his 23 in the first half. Kevin Garnett had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Rondo added 15 points and 15 assists and definitely gave Miami some bulletin-board material. With the Heat trailing by 14 at halftime, Rondo told ESPN, "They're complaining and crying to the refs." And nothing Miami did before or after that refuted what he said.
James fouled out with 29 points -- he said the sixth foul wasn't a foul -- and seven turnovers. He also perpetuated the belief that he doesn't want to take the last shot.
He had the ball on the final play of regulation and could have driven on Mickael Pietrus and tried to draw a foul. But when Garnett doubled him, James dribbled to his left, jumped and threw a wild pass to Udonis Haslem, who fired an air ball on an off-balance 16-foot jumper. "I dribbled the ball to the middle and saw [Haslem] circling underneath," James said. "[Garnett] got a hand on my wrist and we didn't get off a good look."
Wade added 20 points but missed 15 of 22 shots, including the last one after pump-faking Marquis Daniels in the air and waiting for him to go by him before attempting an open three.
"It was on line," Wade said. "It was all you can ask for. It was on line. It just decided it didn't want to go in."
Pierce fouled out on the Celtics' second possession of OT, picking up an offensive foul for knocking over Shane Battier.
The Heat stuck first in overtime as Haslem drove and dunked with 3:31 left. Rondo gave the Celtics a 92-91 lead with a floater with 2:34 left. James had a chance to put the Heat back on top but missed inside. And on Miami's next possession, he picked up his sixth foul on a charge with 1:51 left.
"I don't foul out," James said. "If I'm going to foul out, that sixth foul, I wish I would have earned it and it had actually been a foul on me. Whatever."
On their next possession, the Celtics had three chances to extend their lead but missed all three. Battier then missed a three-pointer and Rondo was intentionally fouled with 21.4 seconds to go. He made one of two to put Boston ahead 93-91.
In regulation, Miami led 83-81 after two foul shots by Haslem with 4:53 left. The Celtics went ahead 85-83 on Rondo's floater with 3:08 to go.
James had a chance to tie it but made just one of two foul shots with 2:56 left. On the Celtics' next possession, Garnett scored to make it 87-84. It stayed that way until Mario Chalmers' driving layup with 1:01 left.
With the Celtics clinging to a one-point lead, Rondo fed Garnett inside to make it a three-game game with 52.4 seconds left. James answered with a three with 37.5 seconds to go and tied it at 89.
After Garnett was called for an offensive foul, the Heat had a chance to win in regulation, but the play broke down and James made his ill-advised pass.
"The second half we got into the grind, got into the fight," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We had a couple of opportunities to win. We didn't. We'll gather ourselves and get ready for Game 5 back in Miami."