Celtics put Heat on brink of elimination

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Celtics put Heat on brink of elimination

MIAMI -- Paul Pierce watched the shot sail just over LeBron James' outstretched arm. And when it swished, he turned toward the Boston bench, shaking his head.The biggest shot of the night, for certain.And it put the Miami Heat in big trouble in these Eastern Conference finals.Kevin Garnett finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Pierce scored 19 and the Celtics moved one win away from the East title by beating the Heat 94-90 on Tuesday night, taking a 3-2 lead in the series.James finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, though he went 8 minutes without scoring in the final quarter. Dwyane Wade scored 27 for the Heat, who got no more than nine from anyone else.Pierce's 3-pointer with 53 seconds left put Boston up 90-86. Miami got within two points twice, and argued that it should have had a steal with 8.8 seconds left. Instead, a foul was called on Udonis Haslem, Garnett made two free throws, and the Celtics knew they had just stolen one on Miami's home floor.Game 6 is Thursday night in Boston, where the Celtics will try to clinch a trip to either Oklahoma City or San Antonio for Game 1 of the NBA finals. The title series starts June 12.The Celtics were down by 13 points in the second quarter, then down nine in the third, and answered both times - prevailing on a night where they shot just 41 percent, and got outrebounded 49-39.Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus scored 13 apiece for the Celtics, who got 10 from Brandon Bass.The Celtics came into Tuesday a perfect 8-0 in this situation - a Game 5 with series tied at 2-2 - with the core of Pierce, Garnett, Rondo and Allen. And some of James' most memorable moments have come in Game 5s, like the epic 48 points where he just carried Cleveland on every possession down the stretch at Detroit in 2007, and the 120-88 loss to the Celtics in 2010, his last home game with the Cavaliers.This one offered more theater, of course. James hit a 3-pointer to give Miami a two-point lead with 8:10 left, closed out on Pierce to force an airball on the next possession, and eventually Miami pushed the margin out to 78-72 on a layup by Wade with 6:17 to play. On that play, James looked gassed, gasping for air as he stood near the baseline.Those might have been the last gasps the Miami home crowd sees this season. Boston closed on a 22-12 run.Boston tied the game twice early in the third quarter, before Miami peeled off nine straight points to go up 59-50. Four players scored for the Heat during that quick burst, highlighted by Shane Battier's corner 3-pointer and a lazy turnover from Rondo, who threw the ball into the backcourt without being pressured by any Miami defender.But just as they did in the first half when Miami looked poised to pull away, the Celtics rallied - and then some. A 15-1 run gave the Celtics a truckload of momentum going into the fourth.Garnett's dunk while being fouled by James Jones with 1:32 left tied it at 60-all, and Pietrus' long jumper on the next Boston possession gave the Celtics their first lead of the night. The Heat shot 35 percent in the quarter, and Boston took a 65-60 lead into the final 12 minutes after Keyon Dooling connected on a 3-pointer from near the Miami bench with 2 seconds left.So another Game 5, another classic show.Given that it was the Celtics on one side and James on the other, few would have expected anything less.Garnett's jumper with 2:54 left put the Celtics back on top, and Mario Chalmers was assessed a technical foul after the play when referee Derrick Stafford whistled him for pushing Pietrus. Allen made the free throw for an 82-80 lead - but Chalmers, as if to atone, hit a 3-pointer on the next Miami possession for one lead change, followed immediately by another when Pietrus made a 3 at the other end.Wade tied it at 85 with an acrobatic layup with 1:39 to play, but Miami never led again.Miami didn't lead by more than eight points at any time in the three previous games of the series. The Heat changed that quickly, and maybe it was fitting that Chris Bosh got them their first double-digit advantage since Game 1.Bosh came off the bench for his first minutes since straining a lower abdominal muscle in Game 1 of Miami's second-round series against Indiana. His three-point play with 1:17 left in the opening quarter - punctuated with a stare-down for some cheering fans - capped a 24-13 Miami run to open the game. James made a 3-pointer with 9:39 left in the half, and the Heat went up 31-18.The Celtics did what Miami did to them in Games 3 and 4 at Boston. They started chipping away.Miami missed 15 of its final 17 shots of the first half, with four turnovers thrown in there as well, and the Celtics took advantage. After James' 3-pointer, Boston outscored Miami 22-11 to close the second quarter - Garnett got six of his eight first-half points in the final 3:09 - and the once-sizable Heat lead was down to 42-40 by intermission.NOTES:
Dorell Wright, a member of the 2006 Heat championship team and now with Golden State, was in attendance. A denim-vested Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks - Miami's first-round playoff foe - was seated courtside, and former Celtic Glen Davis was near the Boston bench. ... Wade scored seven points in the first 4:22 of the game. He didn't score again in the first half, and after scoring 26 points by halftime of the series-clincher against Indiana, he has 29 points in five first halves against Boston in this series. ... Pierce said before the game that he does not expect to need offseason surgery to repair the sprained MCL in his left knee. "No complaints," Pierce said.

Fred Hoiberg's message to Bulls at trade deadline: Control what you can control

Fred Hoiberg's message to Bulls at trade deadline: Control what you can control

Jimmy Butler was the lone member of the Bulls not at practice Wednesday night at the Advocate Center. But the three-time All-Star wasn't on his way to Boston as part of a blockbuster trade. Instead, he was simply receiving an extra day of rest after a busy weekend in New Orleans.

With a little more than 12 hours remaining until the NBA trade deadline - Thursday at 2 p.m. CT - the Bulls' roster remains intact. Butler continues to be linked to the Boston Celtics - although multiple reports have stated that the two sides remain far off on a potential deal - and the likes of Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Robin Lopez all have popped up in various trade rumors over the past week. Even Fred Hoiberg said "Jimmy's obviously been great for us and we thinkn that will obviously continue to happen" when asked if the team's leadeing scorer might be dealt.

The latest report came Wednesday evening when The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls are continuing their pursuit of Chicago native and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor, with Mirotic as a potential part of the package going back to Philadelphia.

 

Fred Hoiberg, who's been in a front office role at the deadline with the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he understands the trade deadline process of needing to "listen to everything and see if there's something that can help out without jeopardizing the future." But Hoiberg, as he's done when asked about the deadline the last few weeks, reiterated that "99 percent of the things that you hear and read don't transpire."

Still, as a former player he's aware of the strain the trade deadline can put on players, specifically players of a team in selling mode. He's implored his team to not read too much into reports and sources that pop up on social media and to focus on the task at hand, a Friday night matchup against the Suns.

"I don't think it's affected us at all. I think our guys have done a great job. Again, there's so many rumors that get thrown against the wall and that's what most of them are, they're rumors," Hoiberg said. "Our guys have done a good job ignoring that and going out and trying to work through and control what they can control, and that's going out and competing."

Butler has strung together another career year and started Sunday's All-Star Game for the first time in his career. But as the Bulls internally discuss whether to begin their rebuild - which would come in the form of dealing Butler to the Celtics for young assets - Dwyane Wade, who is expected to play through his wrist injury Friday against the Suns, understands that every rumor, report and eventual trade is fair game this time of the year.

"It's a business. every organization has a job to do to try to make their orgnaizatioon the way that they see fit. and as players you can't get sensitive about that at all," Wade said. "Trade deadline is more talk than anything, normally, but it's exciting for the fans to see what the team is gonna do or don't do and all this and that. But a lot of it is just talk."

For the Bulls, all talk remained just that at last year's deadline. They find themselves in a similar position as they did last season, although wins over contenders in Toronto and Boston have produced some optimism for the seventh-seeded Bulls. The schedule doesn't get much easier in March, with the Bulls facing off against 11 current playoff teams in their next 14 games.

And they'll know a lot more about where they stand when the clock strikes 2 p.m. on Thursday.

"I think it's always a relief for anybody that's in this business once that trade deadline comes and goes," Hoiberg admitted. "Then you can just focus on what you need to work on and not have to worry about all the things that are being thrown around and all the rumors that are out there. Just worry about getting your guys ready to play the stretch run and again hopefully play well."

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls are continuing to go after Chicago native and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor.

According to Wojnarowski, the Bulls are trying to persuade the Sixers to entertain Nikola Mirotic as part of the pacage they would send to Philadelphia.

Okafor has been linked to the Bulls dating back to last month, when CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill reported that the Bulls were going after the 21-year-old center.