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The Boston Celtics held on and evened the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece with an overtime win over the Miami Heat, 93-91, Sunday night. The Celtics nearly let the win slip away, blowing an 18-point first-half lead.
The Celtics got off to a fast start, opening the game on a 21-6 run, much to the delight of the raucous TD Garden crowd that included Bill Belichick and Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. But the Heat answered with a 9-0 run to put themselves back in the game. Six is as close as they would get in the first, however, as Boston took a 34-23 lead into the second quarter.
Paul Pierce led the charge early, scoring 12 points in the opening quarter while knocking down two from downtown. The Celtics shot well from beyond the arc in the first 12 minutes, cashing in on 3-of-5 threes.
The Celtics’ opened the second quarter with more three-point success, hitting three of them early. Boston stretched their lead to as many as 17 in the quarter before they began to cool off. The Heat defense held the Celtics to 9-for-23 in the quarter, but turnovers prevented Miami from significantly cutting into the deficit. Boston caused six miscues in the quarter, and the Heat shot 8-for-18.
James led all scorers with 19 at the half, though Miami still trailed, 61-47. Boston’s 61 first-half points were the most given up by Miami this postseason.
Pierce led a balanced Celtics attack with 18. Each Boston starter had at least eight points at the break, and Rondo nearly recorded a double-double in one half, finishing with eight points and 10 assists.
The third quarter belonged to Miami, as the Heat defense stifled the Celtics. Boston scored just 12 points in the quarter on 5-for-16 shooting from the field. The Celtics also lost the rebounding battle 12-6 in the third. Miami shot 8-for-17, shrinking the Boston lead to just five heading into the final quarter.
The Heat used a 6-1 run to open the fourth quarter and tie the game at 74. Miami went up 76-74 on a Norris Cole jumper with 8:22 left in the game, giving the Heat their first lead of the night.
The game’s ending was a nail-biter – no team led by more than three points after Cole’s bucket. There were four lead changes and four ties in the fourth quarter after Miami’s first lead. James hit a big three to tie the game with just under 37 seconds to play in regulation, then drew an offensive foul on Kevin Garnett as the two jockeyed for position.
This gave Miami a chance to go for the win with the shot-clock turned off, but Boston played tight defense and forced a Udonis Haslem miss as time expired to send the game into overtime.
Pierce fouled out early in the extra period, his third time in the last five games. The Heat then lost a star of their own, with James getting called for his sixth foul in overtime.
Haslem opened up the scoring in overtime on a dunk to give Miami the lead, but that would be the Heat’s last points. Marquis Daniels hit 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead to one before Rondo put Boston ahead for good on its next possession. He finished the game with 15 points and as many assists.
Miami once again had a chance to win the game with the shot-clock off in overtime. Down two, Dwyane Wade missed the potential game-winner from three-point land as the buzzer sounded. He finished with 20 points on a poor shooting night, going 7-for-22 from the field.
James led the Heat with 29 in defeat, one of four players in double-figures for Miami. Pierce led the Celtics 23 points, and all five starters and Keyon Dooling hit the double-figure mark.
The series will shift back to Miami for a pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday.