NBA playoffs: Celtics 106, Bulls 104 in overtime
BOSTON ó Kevin Garnett was in street clothes. Ray Allen fouled out. The Boston Celtics’ Big Three was down to one, and Paul Pierce was ready.
The MVP of last year’s NBA finals scored 26 points, hitting one jumper to tie the game at the end of regulation and three more in the final 77 seconds of overtime on Tuesday night to help the Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 106-104 and take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.
“I just thought when Ray fouled out it was time for me to really step up,” said Pierce, who scored 12 points in the 10 minutes after Allen left the game. “Better late than never.”
Rajon Rondo scored 28 points with 11 assists and eight rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins had 16 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks for Boston. The Celtics could finish the Bulls off in Chicago on Thursday in Game 6; if not, the decisive seventh game would be in Boston on Saturday.
Ben Gordon scored 26 points and Joakim Noah had 11 points and 17 rebounds for Chicago, but Brad Miller missed the potential game-tying free throws with two seconds left in overtime after Rondo fouled him to prevent an easy layup.
“Paul Pierce was unbelievable,” Noah said. “Guys are hitting crazy shot after crazy shot. It’s all about who’s going to make that shot at the end of the game.”
It was the third time in five games the teams have needed overtime, a surprising first-round struggle for the defending NBA champions.
Pierce made a jumper to give Boston a 102-101 lead with 1:17 left in OT, then hit another with 37 seconds to play to make it 104-101. Boston’s defense nearly forced a stop, but Tony Allen fouled Gordon while he was attempting a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left; Gordon hit all three free throws to tie it 104-all.
Pierce got the ball and dribbled down the clock before hitting a long two-pointer over John Salmons with 3.4 seconds remaining. Pierce played 50 minutes, 40 seconds ó all but 2:20 of the game.
“He was just doing what he was supposed to be doing: being the captain, being Paul Pierce, ‘The Truth,’ ” said Celtics forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who scored 21 points. “You’ve seen it a dozen times; I think since I’ve been here I’ve seen it a million times, so nothing surprised me.”
The Bulls called a timeout and got the ball in to Miller, who had a surprisingly clear path to the basket but appeared to sail a layup wide. The clock expired and the Boston Garden crowd celebrated, but the referees immediately huddled, called a foul on Rondo and put Miller on the line.
He missed the first one badly, then tried to miss the second on purpose but failed to hit the rim.
Miller got stitches in his mouth after the game, and Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said it should have been called a flagrant foul. Kirk Hinrich also needed stitches for a cut above his eye, Del Negro said.
“We got a lot of guys getting head shots this series ó I mean a whole lot of them ó and it hasn’t been a flagrant,” Miller said. “So everybody’s had to shake off these high hits.”
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