Miami bound for conference finals after ousting Celtics

Photo by Heather Meadows

Photo by Heather Meadows

MIAMI -- Behind Boston much of the season. Behind Boston much of the game.

No more.

Not only has the Miami Heat caught the Celtics -- they have officially gone past them, and into the Eastern Conference finals.

Vanquishing the team they couldn't beat for so long with a 16-0 run to end the game, Dwyane Wade scored 34 points, LeBron James put the Heat up for good with a 3-pointer with 2:10 left on the way to a 33-point effort, and Miami topped Boston 97-87 to win their East semifinal series Wednesday night in five games.

James added a game-sealing -- more aptly, a series-sealing -- 3-pointer with 40.4 seconds left, then turned and posed for some fans who screamed in delight.

''They make you fight for everything,'' James said. ''You can never take the foot off the gas. You can never take a second off against that team.''

So he kept playing, all the way to the final second.

A steal and two-handed slam 6 seconds later for good measure, followed by a Celtics turnover, got the party started. It was over, the Heat and Celtics knew it, and Boston coach Doc Rivers stood silently near the bench, his arms folded across his chest as James ran down the clock on Miami's final offensive possession of the series.

Of course, he scored.

Boston was done, thoroughly worn down by a younger, more athletic opponent. The Celtics won the first three meetings between the clubs this season, then lost five of the final six.

''It was a series that all of us wanted, really since training camp,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Wade was knocked over into some courtside seats trying to snare the final rebound, but that only prolonged the moment. James knelt in prayer for several seconds, then ran over to wrap Wade in a long embrace as the fans screamed loudly.

This is why he stayed in Miami, while James and Chris Bosh came to Miami, to chase a championship.

They're halfway there. Next up for Miami: Either Chicago or Atlanta, in a series that may start as early as Sunday. Chicago leads the series 3-2.

''It's a great team,'' James said of Boston in the on-court celebration. ''Like I said, I got the utmost respect for that team. They're the reason why all three of us came together, is because of what they did, that blueprint they had in '08 when they all came together. So it's a great team win and get ready for our next opponent.''

Bosh finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, including head-faking his way past Kevin Garnett for a game-tying dunk with 2:57 left.