Pierce takes Celtics to 3-0 series lead

-Spurs and Jazz win

MIAMI, (Reuters) – The Boston Celtics put the Miami Heat on the brink of elimination from the playoffs, with a clutch 100-98 victory on Friday to take a 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference first round series.

Paul Pierce’s 21-foot jumper at the buzzer wrapped up the win after Miami had fought back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit.

In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks 94-90 and the Utah Jazz crushed the Denver Nuggets 105-93.

In the East, however, Pierce’s late effort means Boston can close out the best-of-seven series with a win in Game Four in Miami on Sunday

“The whole play was for Paul,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters. “We told him last shot. … He’s a star. He never loses his confidence.”

No NBA team has ever come back to win a series after losing the first three games.

“The door isn’t closed. We have another day,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Pierce scored 32 points, including the last five for Boston, as he duelled the Heat’s Dwayne Wade, who scored 34 points before a left calf injury forced him off with 11 seconds to play.

Pierce’s three-pointer broke a 95-95 deadlock with 1:42 to play, but the Heat quickly tied the score on Dorell Wright’s three-pointer 13 seconds later.

Boston then missed three three-pointers, two by Ray Allen, and Wade misfired on a three-pointer for Miami before Pierce scored the game-winner.

“We certainly fought the fight in terms of bringing the appropriate level of intensity to the game,” Miami’s Spoelstra said.

“It is obviously a very tough loss, losing like that on a last-second shot. You have the feeling like it could take your spirit. But it’s about staying in this fight.”

In the West, San Antonio were thankful for a late surge by Manu Ginobili, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter while playing with a nose injury, to edge the Spurs 2-1 in front in the series.

Dirk Nowitzki had 35 for Dallas, who host the Spurs in Game Four on Sunday.

Jazz forward Paul Millsap shocked the Nuggets by tallying 22 points and 19 rebounds, both career highs, as Utah edged ahead in their Western Conference series 2-1.

Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups both had 25 points for Denver, who will look to level the series in Game Four on Sunday.

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