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They hang around and hang loss on Miami

Celtics stayed close before big 15-1 run

By Cristina Ledra
Globe Correspondent / June 6, 2012
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MIAMI - Coach Doc Rivers knew that if the Celtics could just find a way to stay with the Heat, they could eventually surpass Miami.

By the third quarter, Boston strung together a 15-1, game-changing run to get a handle on the eventual 94-90 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night, giving the Celtics a 3-2 series lead.

“Doc always says in the locker room where he can feel it when we’re locked in,’’ said Paul Pierce. “It was one of those games where we were locked in. We went down [by 9] in the third. We were able to make a run and end the third with the lead. From that point on, we said we wanted to try to close this game out. We gave ourselves a chance and we were able to do it.’’

Though both teams looked out of sorts on some level, the Celtics were struggling to control the ball on offense and shot 33 percent from the field in the first half. Miami wasn’t much better, shooting 36 percent.

“They jumped on us at the beginning of the game and we just told our guys, ‘Hang in there, just hang in there,’ ’’ Rivers said. “Don’t over react, hang in there, the longer we’re in the game, the better we’ll play.’’

Once the Celtics tied the game at 50 on a 21-foot jumper from Kevin Garnett with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Heat went on a 9-0 run capped by a 5-foot hook shot from Udonis Haslem.

The Celtics subbed out Garnett for Greg Stiemsma at the tail end of Miami’s run, but instead of falling deeper into the deficit, Boston put together a run of its own going from a 59-50 hole to generating a lead of 65-60 in the last six minutes of the third quarter.

“Honestly, in the first quarter, that’s kind of the way as a staff we felt like we just got to try to hang around this game somehow because things are not going well,’’ Rivers said. “You could clearly see that for us.

“I thought we were out of rhythm at times. I thought we were even tentative, all of us. I don’t know how many balls we bobbled back to them when we had steals. But I thought in that third quarter when Ray [Allen] had to go in and get treatment on his foot, [we] didn’t know if he was coming back. Mickael Pietrus, we make a couple of shots, I thought that gave us belief and life again.’’

Garnett was off the floor for just over four minutes of the run, and came back in to contribute a dunk and a free throw before feeding Pietrus on a 21-foot jump shot.

“We’re a hard-fought team,’’ Garnett said. “We’ve been together for a while, we’ve been through different encounters, we’ve encountered different battles, different teams. We respect this team so much that sometimes it gets in the way and tonight we just fought.’’

The Celtics reiterated that as long as they were persistent and kept fighting, all would work out in the end.

“We felt like we didn’t play well in the first half,’’ said Keyon Dooling. “We just hung around. That has been our personality all year long, just hang around, grind it out and find a way to win. We were able to do that tonight.’’

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