MIAMI – For LeBron James, Game 5 last season against Boston was horrific.

A year later, Game 5 was humbling.

And he and the Miami Heat are halfway to an NBA championship, having finally found a way to vanquish the Celtics.

Dwyane Wade scored 34 points, James added 33 — including the game’s last 10 in a spectacular closing flourish Wednesday night, part of a 16-0 run over the final 4:15 — and the Heat beat the Celtics 97-87 to win their Eastern Conference semifinal series in five games.

When it was over, James knelt on the court, oblivious to the photographers who quickly surrounded him in Miami’s celebration.

“Everything went through my mind at that point,” James said. “Finally getting over this hump against this team. Everything I went through this summer, with ‘The Decision’ and deciding to come down here to be a part of this team because I knew how important team is to this sport and all the backlash I got from it.

“I’d be up here for two hours if I tell you exactly everything that went through my head. Very emotional at that point, you know, and happy we got through it as a team.”

James Jones hit a 3-pointer that kickstarted the final push, and Chris Bosh finished with 14 points, none more important than when he blew past Kevin Garnett for a game-tying dunk with 2:57 left.

Wade carried Miami early, then James finished it.

“I play with the two best players in the league,” Bosh said. “And we do this together.”

Ray Allen led Boston with 18 points. Garnett had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 12 and Delonte West added 10.

“Right now I’m really upset,” Pierce said. “I wish I could have played better tonight. Unfortunately we came up on the short end of the stick. I tip my hat off to Miami. They really played great basketball.”

Rajon Rondo finished with six points in 31 minutes for Boston, playing with what appeared to be a slimmer brace over the still-painful left elbow that he dislocated during Game 3.

“I know we gave a lot in Game 3,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. “And I don’t know if we could ever get that effort back.”

The Celtics got one measure of a victory: Ending months of speculation, Rivers said he likely will return to coach.

“I’m a Celtic,” Rivers said. “And I love our guys. I want to win again here. I don’t believe this team is done. I’m competitive as hell, I have a competitive group. So we’ll see. That’s where I’m at today. Tomorrow I may change my mind.”

Rivers’ words provided some end-of-season consolation.

“I’m going to put this on the record,” Rondo said. “Doc already committed that he was coming back with me so he can’t go back against his word. We just signed a contract about 10 minutes ago.”

Pierce said Rivers is an important part of the Celtics’ plan.

“If we’re moving forward next year and try to win a championship, he’s one of the main pieces,” Pierce said.

The core of the Celtics is expected back as well, with Ray Allen saying after Game 5 that he doesn’t plan to go elsewhere. Unless something changes, the team that won 56 games this regular season will gear up in another quest to bring an 18th championship to Boston.

“I’ve kind of come to that over the last couple weeks,” Rivers said.

Next up for the Heat is the East finals against Chicago or Atlanta, a series that may begin as early as Sunday.

Chicago leads 3-2 with Game 6 tonight.

“When you’re playing this game and you have another guy over there doing the things and as capable as LeBron, not only am I a fan on the court but it makes the game easier,” Wade said. “Obviously.”

James put Miami up for good with a 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining, then added a 3 with 40.4 seconds left.

“They make you fight for everything,” James said. “You can never take the foot off the gas. You can never take a second off against that team.”

Boston was worn down by a younger, more athletic opponent.

The Celtics won the first three meetings between the clubs this season, then lost five of the final six.

“It’s a great team,” James said of Boston in the on-court celebration.

“Like I said, I’ve got the utmost respect for that team. They’re the reason why all three of us came together, is because of what they did, that blueprint they had in ’08 when they all came together. So it’s a great team win and get ready for our next opponent.”

It will be Miami’s fourth trip to the East finals, its first since 2006.