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Celtics win, even series; Rondo's points in OT prove crucial

BOSTON -- Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists, and scored the final three points of the Boston Celtics' 93-91 overtime victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday night that evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

Getting a huge break when LeBron James fouled out for the first time since joining the Heat, the Celtics recovered after blowing an 18-point lead in regulation to move two games away from a third trip to the NBA Finals in five years.

Kevin Garnett added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Celtics, while Paul Pierce scored 23 points before fouling out. Ray Allen finished with 16 points.

"Stops," Rondo said when asked what was the difference in the tight game. "I think we executed offensively, came up with some lucky plays and we got stops at the end."

James had 29 points and Dwyane Wade scored 20 after another dismal start for the Heat, who host Game Five on Tuesday.

In a game that started as a Celtics blowout and turned into a foul- and tension-filled fourth quarter, followed by the second overtime in this series, the Celtics held on when Wade missed a potential winning three-pointer on the last possession.

"We knew they were going to Wade. I wanted to check him," Rondo said. "They set a great pick. We're lucky we got a stop."

Mickael Pietrus drew James' sixth foul and grabbed two huge offensive rebounds that extended consecutive possessions for the Celtics, who lost Game Four in overtime in a second-round series against the Heat last year with a chance to tie the series.

This time, they overcame their second-half stall on the offensive end to give themselves by limiting the Heat to just one basket in overtime, by Udonis Haslem.

Rondo's layup gave the Celtics a 92-91 lead with 2:34 left, and neither team scored again until he made a free throw with 21 seconds to play. Wade, already finding it tough to locate any room with Chris Bosh and then having to do it James also on the sideline, saw his potential winning attempt bounce off the rim as time expired.

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West is best-of-three

SAN ANTONIO -- In the span of three days, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs as many times as they had in the last three years.

And now the Western Conference finals are suddenly up for grabs.

What once seemed like the continuation of one of the most dominant runs in NBA history has turned into a genuine toss-up of a series after the Thunder stopped San Antonio's perfect stretch with two convincing victories in half a week.

Game Five is tonight in San Antonio (9 p.m., TNT, Radio 550). Oklahoma City needs at least one road win to advance, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Sunday there's no time like the present.

"We have a great opportunity in Game Five," Brooks said.

Seldom have the Thunder been able to say that when they faced the Spurs.

Since James Harden joined Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in 2009, the Thunder had been 2-8 against San Antonio heading into this series. Now they return to Texas with a chance to hand the Spurs three straight losses for the first time all season.

"We've just got to go down there with the mind-set that we're going to play hard every possession, play together like we've been playing these last few games, and we'll see what happens," said Durant, who is averaging 29 points this series after scoring 36 in Game Four on Saturday. "We've just got to keep believing, man. We'll be fine."

Spurs players didn't meet with reporters Sunday. Coach Gregg Popovich, back at Spurs headquarters trying to solve his team's first skid since April 9-11, said their attitude hasn't changed from when they were winning 20 straight games.

Also not likely to change much are the defensive looks the Spurs threw at the Thunder in a 109-103 loss on Saturday. That's because, as far as Popovich is concerned, there is little to plan for when three typically unheralded offensive players shoot a combined 22 of 25 for 49 points.

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