Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce scored 32 points and sank the winning jumper as time expired, giving Boston a 100-98 win over Miami and securing the Celtics a commanding lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Pierce had 11 points in the final quarter, helping the Celtics take a 3-0 lead. Boston can sweep the best-of-seven series with a win Sunday afternoon, when Game 4 is scheduled back at American Airlines Arena.
The Heat not only lost the game, but star guard Dwyane Wade had to be helped to the bench with 11.7 seconds left after landing awkwardly following a missed jumper. Wade was suffering from a calf cramp.
Ray Allen had 25 points for the Celtics, who also received 17 points and eight assists from Rajon Rondo. Kevin Garnett returned from a one-game suspension and contributed 16 points for the fourth-seeded Celtics, who were coming off a 106-77 rout in Game 2.
"We just stayed poised the whole time, playing defense, locking in on Wade," Pierce said. "We came out of here with a tough win."
The odds are stacked against the Heat. No team in NBA history has ever rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game series.
"Losing like that on a last-second shot, you have the feeling it can take your spirit, but our group now it's all about staying in this fight," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "The door still isn't closed. We've dealt with a lot this year and keep on coming back to fight another day. The only thing we can control is get ready for Sunday."
Wade had 34 points and eight assists, but he was forced to leave the game after missing his final shot, a three-pointer from the top of the arc. Wade landed on the right foot of Allen, then grimaced in pain while holding his left leg. He was helped to the Miami bench.
"He was cramping up in the calf," Spoelstra said. "He expended a tremendous amount of energy in this game. He willed himself to play all the way to the end. He was clearly hobbled."
Pierce secured the rebound and Boston called a 20-second timeout to set up the final play. Pierce got the ball beyond the top of the arc, dribbled to his right and his shot over Dorell Wright went through the net.
"That was just Paul, he wanted it," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "All the movement that you saw, that was just false movement. We were just trying to keep people occupied so nobody could help or trap."
Wright had 15 points, one fewer than teammate Michael Beasley, as the Heat now find themselves one loss away from being eliminated in the first round for a third straight time.
"I've been on the other end being down 3-0 in the series and know how demoralizing it is," Pierce said. "This was a big win for us. Hopefully we can continue this and not rest on our laurels, take it in Game 4, go in and get some rest."
Pierce sank a three-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:42 left for a 98-95 Boston lead, but Wright answered at the other end with a long distance shot to tie the game.
Allen and Pierce then missed three-point tries, but Miami couldn't break the tie as Udonis Haslem was off the mark on a pull-up jumper from left of the lane. Allen then missed a three-pointer from the left corner, and the ball caromed off a surging Rondo out of bounds with 33.6 seconds left to set up the finish.
Pierce hit the shot at the end after the Heat chose not to stop the clock despite having a foul to give.
Wade scored 15 points in the first quarter, but the Heat held just a 29-27 edge after 12 minutes.
Boston surged to a 39-31 lead five minutes into the second quarter, but Miami rallied and tallied the last five points of the half for a 49-48 edge. Wright's three-pointer in the final minute gave the Heat the lead.
The Celtics turned a five-point deficit in the third quarter into a sizeable advantage at the end of the period. Wade's three-pointer extended Miami to a 61-56 cushion, but Boston scored the next eight points.
Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal got tangled up when the Boston forward came up with an offensive rebound midway through the third quarter. O'Neal's hand raked across the neck of Garnett, who tumbled to the floor and walked away from the incident.
The Celtics then ended the period on an 11-2 push with Pierce draining a three-ball in the waning seconds for an 80-72 advantage for the visitors.
Game Notes: Garnett missed Game 2 after throwing an elbow at Miami's Quentin Richardson in the series opener...The Celtics have won eight straight and 14 of 15 against Miami, including these three playoff games...Kendrick Perkins had 12 rebounds for Boston...Haslem and Mario Chalmers each scored 10 for Miami, which had a better shooting percentage than Boston (50.8 - 46.8) in the game.