The Miami Heat are now one loss away from another long offseason. The Heat lost Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics . If Miami does not win its next game (and the next game after that), Boston will go to its third NBA Finals in the last five years, and Miami will be without a title in year 2 of the Big Three era.
Kevin Garnett scored 26 points for Boston, adding 11 rebounds. Paul Pierce scored 19, including a three-pointer with 53 seconds left that gave Boston a 90-86 lead. Michael Pietrus contributed 13 points off the bench. Rajon Rondo had only 7 points, but dished 13 assists.
LeBron James led all scorers with 30 points with 13 rebounds, but looked gassed during one fourth-quarter stretch, gasping for air as he stood near the baseline. Dwyane Wade scored 27, while Udonis Haslem grabbed 14 boards to go with 3 points.
In his first action since leaving Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semis with an abdominal injury, Chris Bosh played 14 minutes coming off the bench and scored 9 points with 7 rebounds. He entered the game midway through the first quarter to a standing ovation, but sat on the bench through the most of the fourth quarter.
Despite holding Boston to 41% shooting and outrebounding the Celtics 49-39, the Heat could not preserve an early lead and lost two leads in the fourth quarter. Miami led by as many as 13 points during one stretch of the second quarter, but struggled on offense through most of the game. After hitting 10 of 19 first quarter shots, the Heat shot just 35% after that.
Miami's offense slowed to a crawl in the second quarter, when Boston narrowed a 24-16 lead to 42-40. Miami, in what is becoming a very well-worn patter, took fewer shots in the paint and began settling for jumpers when they lost their lead. The Heat attempted 9 three-pointers in the second quarter, and hit only one of them.
Miami seemed to get back on track in the third quarter, taking a 59-50 lead. But then Boston reeled off a 15-1 run to close the quarter, with Miami not making a single field goal in the final minutes of the quarter. Boston led 65-60 after three quarters.
Miami regained the lead twice in the fourth quarter, once on a LeBron James three-pointer that sparked an 8-0 run, and again on a Mario Chalmers three with 2:34 to go. But each time Boston came back, as it has for the last three games. After Pierce's three in the final minute, Miami cut the lead to two twice, only to see Boston extend their lead on free throws at the other end.
Now up 3-2 in the series, the Celtics' core of Pierce, Garnett, Rondo and Allen are now 9-0 in playoff Game fives with the series tied 2-2. Boston will host Game 6 at 8:30pm Thursday night.