An inspired LeBron James delivered the decisive blow with the last 10 points as the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 97-87 on Wednesday to book their place in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Celtics were expected to represent a major hurdle for the Heat, but it was one they cleared with relative ease, winning the best-of-seven series 4-1.
Miami will now sit back and await the winner between Chicago and Atlanta, with the Bulls holding a 3-2 lead in the series.
In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder pounded the Memphis Grizzlies 99-72 to seize control of their series 3-2.
After a tight opening quarter that ended 17-17, the Thunder ran away from Memphis, leading 46-35 at the half and building a 19-point advantage after three quarters that the Grizzlies could not claw back.
Facing elimination, the Celtics battled hard from the tip-off, but in the final quarter they had no answer to the Heat’s “Big Three” of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
After Bosh had tied the game at 87-87 with a thundering dunk, James put his stamp on the contest by dropping two three--pointers from the arc.
The twice NBA MVP then added a dunk on a Boston turnover and a layup that touched off wild celebrations at the American Airlines Arena.
Wade paced the Heat with a game-high 34 points and 10 rebounds. James had 33 points added Bosh with 14 as the Big Three once again led the charge, collecting 81 of their team’s 97 points.
The Celtics, who held a slim lead through much of the game, were led by 18 points from Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett had 12 points in the opening quarter, but was nearly invisible the rest of the game, finishing with 15.
Rajon Rondo, who dislocated his elbow in Game 3, was back on court with a heavily padded left arm, but was limited to six points.
The win moved James, Wade and Bosh a big step closer to the NBA title they targeted when they came together in Miami.
The Celtics got off to a flying start, Garnett dropping 12 points and pulling down five rebounds to stake Boston to a 24-16 lead.
However, Wade took the spotlight in the second, finishing the half with 23 points and helping trim the deficit to 49-47 heading into the intermission.