Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 3)

Series starts 11/28

Game 1: Sunday, November 28th
Game 2: Tuesday, December 21st
Game 3: Friday, April 15th

Heat 99

(56-23, 23-17 away)

Celtics 101

(44-35, 27-13 home)

    7:30 PM ET, April 15, 2005

    TD Garden, Boston, MA

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIA 21 25 35 1899
    BOS 34 20 25 22101

    Top Performers

    Mia: S. O'Neal 34 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk

    Bos: A. Walker 13 Pts, 15 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    Celtics win 3 in a row; Miami drops 4 straight

    BOSTON (AP) -- The game was on the line and Paul Pierce was left alone to shoot. That left Miami coach Stan Van Gundy angry at his slumping team.

    Pierce hit the 20-footer with nine seconds left, then the Celtics made a strong defensive stand and plunged the Heat deeper into their worst stretch of the season with a 101-99 win Friday night.

    "We weren't anywhere near Paul Pierce off the pick and roll on the last," Van Gundy said. "That, to me, is unfathomable."

    The player that hurt Miami the most and kept Boston close with 13 fourth-quarter points was 20-year-old rookie Al Jefferson, drafted by the Celtics out of high school. He finished with 19 points -- much of that with strong play around the basket -- after listening to coach Doc Rivers.

    "Doc got over to me in the first half saying that I was chasing the ball," Jefferson said. "He said (to) let the game come to me and I felt like that's what I did."

    The victory was the Celtics' third straight and fifth in six games, putting them on the brink of clinching the Atlantic Division title for the first time in 13 years. Another Boston win or a Philadelphia loss will do that. Miami, perhaps weary after an overtime loss in Philadelphia on Thursday night, has clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference but lost its fourth in a row.

    "We just wanted to wear them down, keep running them, keep beating them to the boards," said Ricky Davis, who came off the bench to score all 16 of his points in the first half.

    The Celtics won despite blowing a 17-point first-half lead, overcoming a 34-point performance from Shaquille O'Neal in his second game since missing three with a stomach ailment and viral infection that left him unable to eat for several days.

    "We fought our way out of the hole and then we were not making plays down the stretch," O'Neal said. "The key is not to panic because we know what the problem is. The problem is us."

    With the score 98-93, Miami scored the next six points on O'Neal's layup and two free throws and Eddie Jones' layup that made it 99-98 with 18 seconds left.

    The Celtics had hurt themselves on their previous three possessions by forcing up shots just before the 24-second clock expired. But this time they hurried downcourt, and Pierce, who led them with 22 points, shook free of Jones and sank his jumper from the right side.

    "The last play is just absurd," Van Gundy said.

    With one possession left, Jones inbounded the ball to Dwyane Wade, who drove up the left side and put up a shot that was tipped by Boston's Kendrick Perkins and went long. O'Neal tapped the ball back up, but that shot also was too hard and bounced off the backboard.

    Pierce got the rebound and made one free throw with six-tenths of a second left. Wade's 24-foot desperation shot missed badly at the buzzer.

    Pierce was pleased "to go against the best team in the East and get a win."

    Wade finished with 17 points after scoring just two in the first half. One night earlier, he scored a career-high 48 -- a club record for points in a road game -- in a 126-119 overtime loss at Philadelphia.

    "We need a sense of urgency," Wade said. "We need to get back to the basics."

    Udonis Haslem had 13 points and 15 rebounds for Miami. Boston got 13 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists from Antoine Walker.

    Sparked by Jefferson, Boston rallied from an 81-79 deficit after the third quarter to a 96-89 lead on his two free throws with 5:32 remaining.

    "Great, great game for him. Obviously their MVP tonight," Van Gundy said.

    Game notes

    Boston broke a four-game losing streak to Miami. ... The Heat's last victory was at home on April 5, 104-86 over Chicago. ... The lead changed hands 10 times in the third quarter.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 99 101
    FGM-FGA 35-69 (.507) 38-82 (.463)
    3PM-3PA 5-12 (.417) 4-16 (.250)
    FTM-FTA 24-40 (.600) 21-34 (.618)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 6-35 18-50
    Assists 24 23
    Turnovers 12 15
    Steals 6 5
    Blocks 7 3
    Fast Break Points 7 14
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 25 (0/0) 32 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 5 17

    Top Performers

    Shaquille O'Neal O'Neal
    Points: 34
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 1
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1
    Antoine Walker Walker
    Points: 13
    Reb: 15
    Ast: 8
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 1