Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce scored 41 points, hit two clinching free throws with 7.9 seconds left and led the with the NBA's best regular season record to a 97-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.
|Kevin Garnett eyes the Eastern |
Conference finals [AFP]
That round begins Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons in the same arena where the Celtics have won 14 straight games and are 8-0 in the postseason.
Home teams are 22-2 in the second round of this season's playoffs.
But the Celtics are 0-6 on the road in the postseason after Friday night's 74-69 loss in Cleveland.
On Sunday, they never trailed but they never were safe until the final seconds.
That's because LeBron James scored 45 points to help keep Boston's lead between one and seven points in the fourth quarter.
Sasha Pavlovic's 3-pointer made it 95-92 with 8.6 seconds left and the Cavaliers immediately fouled Pierce.
His first shot hit the rim, hung in the air, then fell through as the crowd roared.
His second free throw was much smoother, making it 97-92.
|LeBron James realises it is over [AFP]|
Cleveland raced downcourt and James hoisted a 3-pointer that missed with 4.4 seconds to go.
The Cavaliers got the rebound and James waved for the ball from the same spot he had just missed from.
But Boston's Eddie House intercepted the pass and, as the final seconds ticked off, James turned and walked toward his bench, his chances of reaching the East finals dashed on the court where the Cavaliers were 0-6 this season.
Still, the Celtics were pushed to the limit for the second straight series.
They did dominate Atlanta in Game 7, winning 99-65, but had a much tougher time eliminating Cleveland.
But now they're unbeaten in the 29 series in which they've led 3-2.
Kevin Garnett added 13 points and P.J. Brown came off Boston's bench to score 10 and grab key rebounds.
Delonte West was the only other Cleveland scorer in double figures with 15.