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Celtics stop Heat in Bosh's return, take Game 5

Paul Pierce pulled up in front of LeBron James and drained a clutch three-pointer in the final minute, helping the Boston Celtics fend off the Miami Heat, 94-90, in Game 5 to take their first lead of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics became the first team in the series to win on the road and can advance to the NBA Finals with a win in Boston on Thursday.

They pulled out the swing game despite Pierce and Rajon Rondo combining to hit 9-of-34 (26 percent) from the field. Kevin Garnett picked up the slack with 26 points, including two clinching free throws with 8.8 seconds left, to go along with 11 rebounds.

"He's just amazing," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said of Garnett. "He's our life. He does so many things that don't have numbers to it."

Pierce wound up finishing with 19 points, Rondo had 13 assists and Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus each chipped in 13 points to help the Celtics rally from a double-digit deficit early on.

James recorded 30 points and 13 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade added 27 points for the Heat, who lost despite the return of All-Star forward Chris Bosh.

Bosh, sidelined since Game 1 of the East semifinals because of a strained lower abdominal muscle, scored nine points in the first half, but only played four minutes after the break.

"I feel good. I definitely have more to give," Bosh said after the loss. "When the time comes again, I'll definitely be ready to play more than I played tonight."

James never sat in the second half, and the extended minutes showed, as the league MVP shot only 4-of-13 from the field following an 18-point first half.

Miami went without a field goal in the final six minutes of the third quarter and was behind 65-60 heading to the fourth after never trailing in the first 35 minutes.

"We couldn't get anything to go offensively and they just picked it up and made some big shots at the end of the quarter," James said.

There were four lead changes in the fourth, with Boston countering a 9-0 Miami run with an 11-2 spurt to go up, 82-80, following an Allen free throw with under three minutes left.

Mario Chalmers, who was whistled for a technical foul on the previous possession for throwing an elbow, drained a three-pointer to give Miami the lead, only to have Pietrus answer at the other end with a trey of his own.

Wade made a tough runner in the lane to tie it, but Boston rushed up the court and attacked the basket, resulting in two free throws by Pierce with 1:34 on the clock.

Udonis Haslem, who pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds, was fouled under the basket going after an offensive rebound, but only made 1-of-2 free throws.

Pierce, disregarding his struggles from the field, fired a three-pointer from the left wing with James' hand in his face, and it hit nothing but net with 52.9 seconds remaining.

"I thought that was the best shot for us when I saw [James] back up, and I was able to knock it down," recalled Pierce.

Chalmers hit the front of the rim on a three-point try, and the carom went out of bounds. The officials originally ruled Rondo knocked it out of play, but replay showed Haslem last touched the ball, and the Celtics regained possession with 43.1 seconds showing.

Allen and Garnett were each perfect from the foul line down the stretch to seal the victory.

Bosh scored five points during a strong opening quarter for Miami, which led 24-16 after the first 12 minutes and were on top by as many as 13 in the second after James' three-pointer made it 31-18 less than three minutes in.

Everyone not named James on the Heat's roster, however, went cold in the second quarter, making just 1-of-15 (6.7 percent) from the floor. The stretch allowed the Celtics to cut its deficit to two, 42-40, at halftime despite shooting just 33 percent from the field.

Boston pulled even in the third, only to have the Heat rattle off nine straight points in four possessions to go on top, 59-50, at the midway point.

As has been the case the whole series, the Celtics countered immediately with 15 of the next 16 points to end the quarter, as Pietrus' deep jumper gave the visitors their first lead at 62-60 and Keyon Dooling followed with a three- pointer in the closing seconds.

Game Notes

Boston shot 41 percent from the field and held Miami to 39 percent shooting...Miami held a 49-39 rebounding edge...Garnett has four double- doubles in this series...With his third point, Pierce passed Robert Parish for fifth place on the Celtics' all-time postseason scoring list. Pierce now was 2,700 points in his playoff career...James had a postseason-low two assists.