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NBA PLAYOFFS

Celtics win to put Heat on brink of elimination

Boston goes to Miami and wins Game 5 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals, 94-90. The Heat now faces must-win road game.

June 05, 2012|By Ira Winderman
  • Celtics forward Paul Pierce reacts after making a key three-pointer against the Heat late in Game 5 on Tuesday night in Miami.
Celtics forward Paul Pierce reacts after making a key three-pointer against… (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images )

MIAMI -- It comes down to a two-game winning streak for the Miami Heat.

Or a lost season.

Failing to capitalize in its return to AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat fell, 94-90, Tuesday to the Boston Celtics, and is now down 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.

"It's a loss and that's all it is," Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And that's what our focus is right now, to fight any noise from outside and any conditions."

The conditions certainly aren't favorable.

The Heat knows it doesn't have history on its side: Teams that have won Game 5 of best-of-seven NBA series tied at 2 have gone on to win 83.5% of such series (137-27). The Celtics entered 8-0 in Game 5 of such situations in their Big Three era.

"This is what the playoffs are all about," Spoelstra said of his team's all-or-nothing predicament. "It tests your collective character and your resolve."

The next test, possibly the only remaining test, comes in Thursday's Game 6 in Boston, where the Heat lost its first two games of this series.

A Game 7, if needed, would be Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

"We had an opportunity to take a leap, but we didn't," forward LeBron James said.

It is undeniable the Celtics have the Heat at a loss.

Although James scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade 27, Miami did not have enough on a night power forward Chris Bosh played in a game for the first time in more than three weeks.

With Paul Pierce hitting a key late three-pointer on his 19-point night, Kevin Garnett going for 26 points and 11 rebounds, and point guard Rajon Rondo dishing for 13 assists on a night he struggled to three-for-15 shooting from the field, the Celtics made it three consecutive victories over the Heat.

"We came in with the right focus," Pierce said. "You could kind of feel it. It was one of those games we were locked in."

For Rondo, it was his 39th career playoff game with double-digit assists, passing Bob Cousy for most in franchise history.

Just as Spoelstra downplayed his team's plight, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers downplayed his team's advantage.

"We've done nothing," Rivers said. "We're playing a heck of a basketball team. Just because we're going to Boston, I told them we had to play."

The game marked the return of Bosh, who played 14 minutes and 23 seconds and closed with nine points and seven rebounds, struggling on the defensive end.

Bosh said he believes he can deliver more.

"We know what we have to do. It's pretty simple," he said. "... We have to go to Boston and win."

iwinderman@tribune.com

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