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And how’s this for a twist?

After his players were done trying to play defense against the Heat in Game 5, Celtics coach Doc Rivers took a turn defending them.


“You know, I’ve never seen a team more criticized in my life, and a guy in LeBron more criticized for doing what was legal,” Rivers said. “He didn’t break a law. He didn’t do anything wrong. You know, the preseason parade might have been a little bit much, but other than that … I just told him ‘Good luck and keep going’ out there. He was very emotional. Good for him.”

Wade scored 34 points in Game 5, James added 33 _ including the final 10 of the game.

He at least dampened the he-can’t-finish notion.

“Big players make big plays,” said Heat center Joel Anthony. “When he was in the moment, the moment was there. He definitely played huge for us. That’s part of playoff basketball. There are going to be times like that when you need someone like Bron to come in and just take over like that.”

But it wasn’t the points, or the two late 3-pointers that swung the tide Miami’s way, or the steal and dunk that sealed the victory, or even his kneeling in prayer after the final buzzer that will go down as the compelling memory of Game 5.

It’ll be those two words _ “I apologize.”

Whether it soothed or angered Cleveland is a question without a definitive answer. To move ahead in his title chase, though, James felt he needed that one last look back.

Separately, he and Wade couldn’t beat Boston in past playoffs.

Together, they needed only five games to oust the Celtics this year. Simple math: Two superstars shine brighter than one.

“First and foremost, we’re friends,” Wade said. “And not just friends because of what basketball brings. We genuinely care about each other’s families, each other’s life. So when you have that kind of friendship, that kind of respect for a person, you figure it out. … Once we signed on that dotted line, we couldn’t run from it. We had to figure it out.

“There was no question in my mind, it was going to work.”