James delivers fatal blow as Heat finish off Celtics

MIAMI,  (Reuters) – An inspired LeBron James delivered  the decisive blow with the last 10 points as the Miami Heat beat  the Boston Celtics 97-87 on Wednesday to book their place in the  Eastern Conference finals.

LeBron James

The Celtics were expected to represent a major hurdle for  the Heat but it was one they cleared with relative ease, winning  the best-of-seven series 4-1.

Miami will now sit back and await the winner between Chicago  and Atlanta, with the Bulls holding a 3-2 lead in the series.

In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder pounded  the Memphis Grizzlies 99-72 to seize control of their series  3-2.

After a tight opening quarter that ended 17-17, the Thunder  ran away from Memphis leading 46-35 at the half and building a  19-point advantage after three quarters that the Grizzlies could  not claw back.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 19 points while Daequan  Cook had 18 off the bench. Marc Gasol had 15 for the Grizzlies,  who will host Game Six on Friday.

Facing elimination, the Celtics battled hard from the  tip-off but in the final quarter they had no answer to the  Heat’s ‘Big Three’ of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

After Bosh had tied the game at 87-87 with a thundering  dunk, James put his stamp on the contest by dropping two  three-pointers from the arc.

The twice NBA MVP then added a dunk on a Boston turnover and  a layup that touched off wild celebrations at the American  Airlines Arena.

“I want to give a lot of credit to the Boston Celtics, that  coaching staff and those players, they make you fight for  everything,” James told reporters.

“You can never take your foot off the gas, you can never  take a second off against that team so I have a lot of respect  for that team.”

STEP CLOSER

Wade paced the Heat with a game-high 34 points and 10  rebounds. James had 33 points added Bosh with 14 as the Big  Three once again led the charge, collecting 81 of their team’s  97 points.

The Celtics, who held a slim lead through much of the game,  were led by 18 points from Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett had 12  points in the opening quarter but was nearly invisible the rest  of the game, finishing with 15.

Dwyane Wade

Rajon Rondo, who dislocated his elbow in Game Three, was  back on court with a heavily padded left arm but was limited to  six points.

The win moved James, Wade and Bosh a big step closer to the  NBA title they targeted when they came together in Miami.

“I got the utmost respect for that team,” James said.

“They (Celtics) are the reason why all three of us came  together, because of what they did, that blueprint they had in  ‘08 when they all came together.

“It’s a great team win, now we get ready for our next  opponent.”

The Celtics got off to a flying start, Garnett dropping 12  points and pulling down five rebounds to stake Boston to a 24-16  lead.

But Wade took the spotlight in the second, finishing the  half with 23 points and helping trim the deficit to 49-47  heading into the intermission.

Boston clung to their two-point lead in the third, and  padded it to 81-74 early in the fourth quarter but could not  hold on as the Heat finished with a 16-0 run to seal the series.

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