MIAMI Ray Allen didn't shoot the ball particularly well. Neither did Paul Pierce.
But with the game anyone's for the taking in the fourth, both players came up with big plays in helping the Celtics escape with a 94-90 Game 5 win that moves them one victory away from a return trip to the NBA Finals.
Both players have been hobbled at times in this series with injuries.
In Allen's case, the bone spurs in his right ankle gave him some problems in the third quarter, which led to him returning to the locker room for treatments.
"It's tight; it's sore," Allen said of his ankle. "Last game, it felt worst after the game. Now, I think that helped a lot, coming back here."
Although Allen missed seven of his nine shots from the field, he did come through with a pair of clutch free throws with 13.8 seconds to play that increased the Celtics lead to 92-88.
Normally Allen making free throws isn't that big a deal, but since returning to the C's lineup a few weeks ago, the veteran sharpshooter hasn't been nearly as stellar as he's accustomed to being, from the line.
"Where I am now, is where I've always been," said Allen who made all eight of his free throw attempts.
Allen said he was watching video of his free throw shooting and noticed he wasn't giving the right amount of push and lift on his shots, something he has since corrected.
"It was just a matter of getting in a game and knocking them down," he said.
Knocking down big shots has been one of Paul Pierce's strength, and it was certainly on display Tuesday night.
Pierce was just 5-for-19 from the field, but those numbers will soon be forgotten.
The same can not be said for Pierce's 3-pointer in James' face, with less than a minute to play.
It gave the Celtics a four-point lead that seemingly put the Heat on their heels for the remaining ticks on the clock.
"That's what players like Paul do," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "It really is. He's a big shot-maker. He always has been."
Their ability to come up with clutch plays down the stretch was indeed a key in Boston's win. Let's recap a few key discussed earlier, and how they actually played out in Boston's Game 5 win that puts them just one victory away from a return trip to the NBA Finals.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: All eyes will of course be on the expected return of Chris Bosh, who has missed the last nine games with an abdominal strain injury. If he looks anything like most players upon their first return after missing a few games, chances are high that he'll be a bit too hyped and too amped up initially, but will gradually calm down and play his game. The Celtics would be wise to put him in as many situations early on in which he has to move, just to find out where he's at physically.
WHAT WE SAW: As expected, Bosh returned to the lineup for the Heat and looked pretty good in limited minutes off the bench. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds while playing just over 17 minutes. It was his first game since suffering an abdominal strain injury that kept him out for nine games. "I definitely have more to give," Bosh said. "And I'll be there. When the time comes again, I'll definitely be ready to play more than I played (in Game 5)."
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs LeBron James: It's rare that you'll find the leading scorers for two teams foul out in the same game, but it speaks to some degree to how tough a battle this series has been at the small forward position. The C's will probably look at ways to get Pierce off James defensively, which should result in more playing time for Mickael Pietrus and Marquis Daniels. As for James, look for his always-aggressive style of basketball to be rewarded with trips to the free throw line - a lot of them - tonight instead of fouls.
WHAT WE SAW: Pierce spent a good deal of Game 5 on James. And once again, Pierce would finish the night with significantly more fouls (five to one) than James. But the free throw discrepancy wasn't too outlandish (Pierce had five free throw attempts compared to eight for James). Although James did finish with more points (30) and shot the ball better (11-for-25), Pierce had the better night when you consider his 3-pointer with less than a minute to play, gave the C's a 92-88 lead and with it, control of the game and now, the series as a whole.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The pressure to perform will once again be on Rajon Rondo, who called out the Heat for "whining and crying" about calls at halftime of Boston's Game 4 win. Miami will look to be as aggressive as ever in their defense of him, which means we're likely to see the most physical play on Rondo in this series, tonight.
WHAT WE SAW: Rajon Rondo was another Celtic who had a less-than-impressive night shooting the ball (he was 3-for-15). But like most of his teammates, Rondo was at his best in the fourth quarter. "I made some mistakes I usually don't make," Rondo said. "I missed a lot of shots I usually make. But that's irrelevant. We stuck with it and my teammates believed in me."
STAT TO TRACK: Whether it's unfavorable calls or a lack of aggressiveness, the Celtics have to do a better job of closing the free throw gap that existed in Games 1 and 2 in Miami. In those two games, the Heat were plus-20 on free throw attempts. In the two games in Boston, the C's were plus-2 in free throw attempts.
WHAT WE SAW: Both teams put forth great effort, but this was a game that for the most part was one in which the officials were slow to blow their whistles. After the first four games, this was the first in which the officiating was not a major issue or talking point afterward. As far as free throw shooting goes, Boston went to the line 27 times compared to 25 for the Heat. But you have to keep in mind that Miami was fouling intentionally near the end of the game which padded the C's free throw total.