MIAMI – There was no diagramming of a special play in the final Boston huddle, no brilliant piece of strategy.

Paul Pierce demanded the ball.

Celtics Coach Doc Rivers agreed.

And with Dwyane Wade watching helplessly from the bench, cramps rendering him unable to put any weight on his left leg, Pierce put Boston one win from a first-round sweep of the Heat.

Pierce dribbled the clock down to two seconds, got to his favorite spot just off the right side of the key and nailed a 21-footer at the buzzer Friday night, giving the Celtics a 100-98 victory in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference first-round series.

Boston will advance to the second round by beating Miami on Sunday.

“It’s still a series,” Pierce insisted.

Might not be for long.

No team has rallied from a 3-0 deficit in a series, and Miami might have even bigger problems.

Wade hurt his left calf after missing a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left, replays showing he landed on Celtics guard Ray Allen’s foot. Wade, who changed jerseys during the game because he was sweating so much, crumpled to the court and was carried off by reserve center Jamaal Magloire and trainer Jay Sabol, then chugged a cup of Gatorade so he could play if the game went to overtime.

It didn’t. Pierce saw to that, his final shot capping a 32-point effort.

“Get out of the way and get Paul the ball,” Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said. “Pretty simple. He made the play.”

Boston has made all the plays against Miami this season, winning all six meetings and 14 of the last 15. And when Miami didn’t elect to use its foul to give in the last two minutes, all Pierce had to do was connect.

For the last play, the Celtics loaded the floor with shooters and ran a bunch of cuts, all of which were merely theater.

The moment would belong to Pierce.

“It was just Paul,” Rivers said. “He wanted it. All the movement that you saw, it was just false movement.”

Allen added 25 points for the Celtics, who got 17 from Rondo and 16 from Kevin Garnett.

“That’s a shot I hit a number of times in playoffs and regular season,” Pierce said after getting mobbed by teammates in an on-court melee. “I told the coaches, ‘Give me the ball on the right side.’ I got to my sweet spot, made sure there wasn’t any time left and drained it.”

Wade finished with 34 points, eight assists and five rebounds for the Heat, who rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take the lead, yet saw the game, and more than likely the season, slip away.

“We’ve just got to go out there Sunday and give them another fight,” Dorell Wright of the Heat said. “That was definitely a backbreaker right there.”

That long-awaited offseason, when the Heat are expected to revamp their roster, is closer than Miami ever expected.

“We certainly fought the fight in terms of bringing the appropriate level of intensity to the game,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“That was there. Couldn’t ask for much more in terms of effort plays and just bringing the fight.”

Boston led 85-76 early in the fourth, seeming to be in full control, and with it the series.

Michael Beasley scored six of the next eight Miami points to spark the rally.

But in the end, Pierce added another chapter in his ever-growing book of Celtics lore.

“He lives for games like this,” Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said.


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