MIAMI — The Miami Heat knew it would not be easy closing out the NBA's defending Eastern Conference champions.It was not. But they did.Trailing most of the game, the Heat defeated the Boston Celtics 97-87 in Game 5 Wednesday, finishing the final 4:15 on a 16-0 run.BOX SCORE: Heat 97, Celtics 87PHOTOGALLERY: Top images from the NBA playoffsSCHEDULE: Second-round matchups and resultsThe Heat got the necessary big efforts from their Big 3, especially with Dwyane Wade scoring 23 of his game-high 34 points in the first half and LeBron James (33 points) hitting their final four shots, including two three-pointers down the stretch.Wade, James, Chris Bosh (14 points, 11 rebounds) and the younger Heat are halfway to the NBA title they deliriously celebrated in anticipation when club President Pat Riley assembled them last July. It's the Heat's first time back to the conference finals since they won it all in 2006."Those two guys are monsters," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Wade and James. "When they're making shots, it's very difficult. … They're tough to beat."Miami will face the winner of the Atlanta Hawks-Chicago Bulls series. The Bulls can close it out today in Game 6 in Atlanta.The Heat broke through the mystique of the Celtics, beating them in Boston in Game 4 and rallying from 10 points down in this one. Wade's Heat lost to the Celtics last postseason, and James' Cleveland Cavaliers lost to them twice in the Paul Pierce-Ray Allen-Kevin Garnett era.This time, the Heat wore down the Celtics, who played without ailing center Shaquille O'Neal, lost courageous point guard Rajon Rondo (dislocated left elbow) for the fourth quarter and intermittently lost center Jermaine O'Neal to back trouble."It took a long time to exorcise this demon for a lot of us," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said."It's a great team," James said of Boston in the on-court celebration. "Like I said, I 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."GAME ON!: Follow the action as it happenedAllen had 18 points Wednesday. Garnett had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Pierce, through foul trouble, scored 12 points.The Big 3 who brought the Boston Celtics an NBA championship in 2008 bowed to the latest Big 3 who want the same results.Rajon Rondo finished with six points in 31 minutes for Boston while playing with what appeared to be a slimmer brace over the still-painful left elbow 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."Boston got some satisfaction Wednesday: Ending months of speculation, Rivers said he likely would return next season."I'm a Celtic," Rivers said. "And I love our guys. I want to win again here. 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 led the Celtics to the title in 2008 and then back to the NBA Finals last season, when they lost in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers. "I don't believe this team is done," Rivers said.The same might not be true of Shaquille O'Neal, the Celtics' 39-year-old center. Through 19 NBA seasons, 1,207 games, 28,596 points, 13,099 rebounds, four championships, three Finals MVP awards, one season MVP, from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers to the Heat to the christian louboutin shoes Phoenix Suns to the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Celtics, the reality is the NBA's oldest player might have played his last game.O'Neal was in street clothes Wednesday, bothered since February with calf and Achilles injuries. "He's done everything you possibly can do to get healthy. Unfortunately for him, he just hasn't been able to," Rivers said.If O'Neal doesn't play again, his final regular season and postseason games will be nondescript footnotes to a remarkable, Hall of Fame career. He played five minutes against the Detroit Pistons on April 3 and left with soreness, and he played four first-half minutes in Game 4 on Monday.But O'Neal is considered one of the best centers ever, a dominant offensive and defensive player with his size (7-1, 325-plus pounds), strength, athleticism and skills.He is fifth in points, second in field goal percentage (58.2%) seventh in blocks (2,732), 12th in rebounds and third in free throw attempts (11,252) in history. One of the best ways to stop him from scoring was to foul him, the Hack-a-Shaq tactic, because he is not a good free throw shooter (52.7%).The Celtics signed O'Neal in the offseason, and his presence is one reason Boston traded center Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green at the February trade deadline. O'Neal was bothered by the injury at the time, but the Celtics planned on him healing sooner than he did.