BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics are heading to the second round of the NBA playoffs and a potential matchup with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ray Allen scored 24 points, making five 3-pointers in the second half, to help Boston beat Miami 96-86 in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series on Tuesday night and eliminate the Heat. With Heat star Dwyane Wade due to become a free agent — along with James — it could be an eventful summer in Miami.
Boston advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals thanks to 16 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists from Rajon Rondo. Paul Pierce scored 21 for the Celtics, who will play either Cleveland or Chicago; the Cavaliers took a 3-1 lead into Game 5 of their first-round series later Tuesday night.
Wade scored 31 points — far short of the franchise postseason-record 46 he scored Sunday in Game 4 in Miami to help the Heat stave off elimination.
The Celtics led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter before Miami scored 16 of the next 18 points to make it 69-62. Wade scored 13 in what turned into a 24-6 run that cut the deficit to 73-70 on his three-point play with 10:14 left in the game.
Wade scored 20 in the second half in all; he also finished with 10 assists and eight rebounds. But he was just 10-for-24 shooting and 2 for 7 from 3-point range in the game. He missed all three of his 3-point tries in the fourth quarter as the Heat tried to eat away at the remainder of the Celtics’ big lead.
Wade, who averaged just under 34 points in the series, now has a chance to test one of the hottest free agent markets in memory. James will be the big prize, of course, but Wade is right behind him and several teams could make a run at both superstars to build a potential contender for years to come.
The Celtics beat the Bulls last year in an overtime-laden, seven-game series in the first round. Boston hooked up with James and the Cavaliers for seven games in the conference semis in 2008 on the way to the Celtics’ NBA-record 17th championship.
“We just have to come out with a defensive mindset, keep LeBron from getting on fire,” Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said in the on-court, postgame scoreboard interview while the Cavaliers and Bulls were early in the third quarter.
It was the second straight night a Boston team clinched a playoff series at the TD Garden. On Monday, the Bruins beat the Buffalo Sabres in Game 6 to advance to the NHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals and a matchup with either the Montreal Canadiens or Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Celtics led by eight points after one quarter and 10 at halftime, when Wade had 11 points, six assists and five rebounds but the Heat were shooting just 35 percent as a team — 0 for 8 from 3-point range. Pierce had 13, and Rondo had 12 points and eight assists to help Boston to the 48-38 halftime lead.
The Celtics made four 3-pointers in the first 4:37 of the third quarter and took a 67-46 lead with 7 minutes left. But Mario Chalmers hit back-to-back 3 pointers and Wade followed soon after with a pair of free throws and a pair of 3-pointers to make it 69-62 with 2:18 left in the third.
Miami cut it to three before Allen drove and drew a foul and goaltending call on Joel Anthony.
NOTES: Pierce passed Dennis Johnson for ninth on the Celtics career playoff scoring list. … It was Wade’s 63rd straight postseason game with double digits in scoring. … Chalmers, who scored 20, outscored the entire Celtics bench (13 points). … Allen had seven 3-pointers in Game 2.