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Celtics' core four has Heat on the ropes Pierce drains key trey, Garnett adds 26 points

A week ago, the Boston Celtics were too old.

Three games later, they're one win away from the NBA finals. And Miami -- the team that was constructed with hopes of supplanting Boston as the power in the Eastern Conference -- is suddenly in big trouble.

Kevin Garnett finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 19 -- including a huge 3-pointer over LeBron James' outstretched arm with 52.9 seconds left -- and the Celtics beat the Heat 94-90 on Tuesday night, taking a 3-2 lead in the East finals that now shift to Boston for Game Six on Thursday night.

"We've done nothing," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We're playing a heck of a basketball team. So just because we're going to Boston, I told them, we have to play. They're not going to give it to us. We have to go get it."

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.

"We wouldn't want to be in this situation but we never get too high or too low in a series," James said. "We had an opportunity to come home and take a lead, but we didn't. So we have to go up to Boston and win a game."

Pierce's three 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.

Now all they need is one home win of their own to clinch a trip to either Oklahoma City or San Antonio for Game Six of the NBA finals. The title series starts June 12.

"Right now," Celtics guard Ray Allen said, "the next game is Game Six."

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.

Pierce, Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen are now 9-0 in Game Fives of series tied 2-2.

"We came in with the right focus," Pierce said. "That was key for us."

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Spurs on brink

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Down and nearly out less than a week ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder are riding a momentum shift to the brink of the NBA finals.

With three consecutive wins, the Thunder have changed the conversation from how anyone can stop the San Antonio Spurs' record-setting 20-game winning streak to how Oklahoma City needs just one win on its home court in Game Six tonight to play for the NBA title (9 p.m., TNT).

"We have a great opportunity, we're on our home floor but that doesn't guarantee automatic victory," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

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