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Published: Sunday, 6/10/2012

Miami holds off Boston to win Eastern title

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) drives as Boston Celtics' Ray Allen defends during the first half of Game 7 of the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals, Saturday. Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) drives as Boston Celtics' Ray Allen defends during the first half of Game 7 of the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals, Saturday.
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MIAMI -- The Miami Heat are headed back to the NBA finals.

LeBron James had 31 points and 12 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, and the Heat rallied from as many as 11 points down to beat the Boston Celtics 101-88 on Saturday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Chris Bosh finished with 19 points off the Miami bench, and made a 3-pointer that sparked a huge Heat run to end the game.

Next up: The Heat play Game 1 of the title series in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.

Rajon Rondo finished with 22 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds for Boston, which got 19 points from Paul Pierce in what might be the last game of the "Big Four" era for the Celtics.

Starting, not starting, it's irrelevant to Bosh right now. He's just happy to be playing again.

Bosh said Saturday that he has no qualms with coming off the bench for the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics, the same role he had in the previous two games.

Bosh missed nine games with a strained lower abdominal muscle, after getting hurt in the opening game of Miami's second-round series against Indiana. Bosh played 14 minutes in Game 5 against the Celtics, then played 28 in Game 6 and Miami outscored Boston by 16 points when he was on the floor in that season-saving victory.

"I think it'll be irrelevant for as long as we're playing," Bosh said Saturday when asked if the start-or-not issue affects him. "It really doesn't matter for me. I just want to be out there and as long as I get to play, it doesn't matter. I think we have a good thing going right now and I'll continue to come off the bench as long as it's good. I'm going to have my time out there with certain lineups and that's not going to change my approach and how I do things."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not change his lineup for Game 7, though he has raved about what Bosh has been able to do since returning from the abdominal injury. Miami started Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Mario Chalmers.

"He helped us win [Game 6]," Spoelstra said of Bosh. "It's an extreme situation, bringing somebody back in the middle of a very competitive conference finals. He's very even-keeled in the mind. So if anybody can handle it, he can handle it."

Bosh has been slotted at times to come in when Kevin Garnett goes out of the game for Boston. When the Celtics made a small run mainly by attacking the basket to get Game 6 within 10 points, Bosh checked in to help defend the rim. Boston never got the lead under that 10-point mark, and the Heat wound up eventually winning by 19.

"It's not a normal rotation where you're slotting, 'OK, you're going to play this many minutes, you're going to come out and rest this many minutes,'" Spoelstra said. "It's on the fly."

Bosh has never been part of a series that went seven games. And until this series, he hadn't come off the bench since his rookie season in Toronto.

"I think we're in a situation where I'm not worried about watching my minutes or anything like that," Bosh said. "Just play the game. Whatever the game calls for, for me to play as minutes as possible, I'm going to make sure I do it and be productive when I'm out there."

Durant focused

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Win or lose, Kevin Durant can be found after just about any Oklahoma City Thunder game talking about the need to keep working and getting better.

It was his approach when the Thunder were 3-29 and the laughingstock of the league. It's the same now that he's led the team to the NBA finals just three years later

Durant has never been about glitz and glamour. His winning combination has been humility and hard work, and it may soon pay off. The Thunder need four more wins to win a championship in only their fourth season in Oklahoma City and fulfill Durant's ultimate goal.

"There's always another level you can go to. In basketball, you always can be better at something, I think," Durant said Saturday after practice.


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