x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

NBA: Celtics close in on finals as Heat face tough test

Celtics take 3-2 lead in Eastern Conference finals back to Boston for crucial tie after 94-90 victory over Miami Heat.

Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo shoots over Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers
Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo shoots over Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers

MIAMI // Boston Celtics have moved within touching distance of the NBA finals after taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final.

Kevin Garnett scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Paul Pierce added a further 19 points, to power Boston to a 94-90 win over Miami Heat.

Now victory at Boston on Thursday will see the Celtics advance to play either Oklahoma City or San Antonio in the NBA Finals which start next Tuesday.

NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while Dwyane Wade added 27 points, but the Heat superstars, united to bring an NBA title to Miami, were pushed to the brink of elimination.

Miami's Chris Bosh returned from an abdominal strain suffered in the opening game of a second-round series against Indiana, but the lanky playmaker was not on court in the closing minutes when the game was decided.

Miami led 42-40 at half-time before the Celtics pulled back to 50-50. The Heat then scored nine points in a row, only to have Boston end the third quarter with a 15-1 run that put them ahead 65-60 entering the fourth quarter.

The Heat came back with another nine in a row to seize a 78-72 edge but Garnett sank a jumper to put the Celtics on top 81-80, with Allen adding a free throw to boost the advantage.

Miami's Mario Chalmers and Boston's Mickael Pietrus exchanged 3-pointers before Wade evened the game at 85-85 with a bank shot over two defenders.

Pierce answered with two free throws and, after a free throw by Miami's Udonis Haslem, sank a 3-pointer while being guarded by James to give Boston a 90-86 advantage.

After Wade and Allen traded two free throws each, James scored on a layup to pull Miami closer, but Haslem fouled Garnett and the Boston big man sank two clutch free throws to give the Celtics a 94-90 edge.

Wade missed a 3-point shot and Garnett grabbed the rebound and hurled a pass to the other end of the court as the final buzzer sounded.

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