LeBron James muscled his way to a 35-point, 14-rebound performance as the Miami Heat pushed the Boston Celtics to the brink of playoff elimination with a 98-90 overtime triumph on Monday.
Dwyane Wade added 28 points as the visiting Heat moved closer to vanquishing the defending Eastern Conference champions by taking a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 5 is scheduled for today in Miami, where the Heat will attempt to finish off the Celtics.
“What we’re going to face Wednesday will be our greatest challenge of this season,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “To put away a champion will be the toughest thing we’ve had to do to this point.”
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder prevailed in a marathon triple-overtime 133-123 win over the Memphis Grizzlies to even their series 2-2.
Russell Westbrook scored 40 points and Kevin Durant added 35 and 13 rebounds as the Thunder overcame an early 18-point deficit and now head home for Game 5 today in Oklahoma City.
“This was a fun game. I was blessed to be a part of it,” Durant said. “Playing games like this, it’s what you live for, this was exciting.”
In last season’s playoffs, Boston eliminated James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Wade and the Heat on their way to the NBA Finals.
This year, the Celtics are finding themselves overpowered by Miami’s new partnership.
Chris Bosh, who signed with Miami along with James in the summer to form a “Big Three” with Wade to challenge Boston’s reign, added 20 points and 12 rebounds, including a crucial tip-in with 24 seconds left in overtime to give Miami a 95-90 lead.
In a see-saw fourth quarter, the Heat held the Celtics to just 13 points to force the extra session after Paul Pierce missed a potential game-winner as the buzzer ended regulation time.
Miami scored the first six points of overtime to put the veteran Celtics on their heels.
Pierce finished with 27 points and Ray Allen chipped in 17 for Boston.
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was limited after dislocating his left elbow in Game 3 on Saturday in a gutsy performance that saw him play through the injury. He had 10 points and five assists on Monday.
In Memphis, Tennessee, the Grizzlies trailed 92-82 with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Mike Conley made a game-tying three-pointer with three seconds left to cap a Memphis rally and force the first extra session.
Memphis’ Greivis Vasquez drained a three-pointer in the first overtime to tie the game 109-109 and force a second overtime.
Durant took over with six points in the final overtime to send the Thunder on their way.
Zach Randolph recorded 34 points and 16 rebounds, while Marc Gasol put in 26 and 21 rebounds for the eighth-seeded Grizzlies, who continue to make an improbable post-season run.