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News » 2009 NBA PLAYOFFS


Celtics 106, Bulls 104

Brad Miller was dazed from Rajon Rondo's horse-collar foul, but also crushed and haunted. The Bulls center just missed a free throw with two seconds left in overtime, and the Celtics were about to escape with Game 5.

But from Miller's dejection, to Paul Pierce's throbbing left shin, courtesy of a kick from an unknown Bull, to Rondo's ankles and Ben Gordon's strained left hamstring, the Celtics' 106-104 overtime win turned this first-round series into a contest of extreme endurance.

The Celtics hold a 3-2 series edge, play Game 6 tomorrow night in Chicago, and may need to be accompanied by a M.A.S.H. unit.

This was the first playoff series in NBA history, in any round, to include three overtime games. Four games have now been decided by three or fewer points, and players are hammering each other with impunity.

``Clearly I'm not managing minutes,'' coach Doc Rivers said of the most worrisome byproduct of this series, including last night when three Celtics played 48 or more minutes, including 51 from Pierce. ``I'm playing guys 50 minutes, but that's what we do. We get days off in between. Hell, we play all day. That's our attitude. If we had to play guys 60 minutes, we would do it. How else is there to do it right now?''

The answer is that there is no other way. Indeed, Pierce blossomed in his last two minutes on the floor, burying three straight mid-range jumpers in the last 1:17 of overtime, including the step-back game-winner over John Salmons with 3.4 seconds left. The Celtics captain was hobbled by his sore shin and, for the second straight game, confounded by Chicago's rotating coverage.

But this is what all of those days on the playground were for.

``We grew up playing Basketball, and we may play three or four games in one day,'' said Pierce. ``What Doc is doing with us on off days is saving our legs. At some point when you're in close games and it's the playoffs, it's mental. You don't really think about it.''

That's a good thing, considering the Celtics are wrestling with an opponent made of cling wrap, a team that sticks to them like plastic on meat loaf.

But the Celtics once again exhibited their rather wild survival streak last night. They first had to fall into an 11-point hole (77-66) with 9:28 left in regulation before regenerating themselves.

Tony Allen, barely used this series, was sent in when Ray Allen fouled out. He covered Gordon, working on a hamstrung 26-point performance, as the Celtics ran with a three-guard lineup.

Rondo, just missing his second straight triple-double by two rebounds, willed his way into fast breaks. Kendrick Perkins, with an enormous 16-point, 19-rebound, seven-block performance, commanded the paint.

Rondo started the comeback with three drives in a 9-0 run that also included a Ray Allen 3-pointer, and with 1:19 left, Pierce tied the score with a fast-break drive. Gordon hit from the baseline, but this time Pierce buried a foul line jumper with 10.5 seconds left to tie the game at 93 and force overtime.

Overtime was even more frenetic.

With 36.5 seconds left, Allen, a bit too tight on Gordon, fouled the guard as he attempted a trey. Gordon hit all three free throws for the tie with 27.3 seconds left, leaving the Celtics to run down the clock until Pierce hit his game-winner with 3.4 seconds left.

On the next play, Miller got grabbed by Rondo, who inadvertently hit him in the mouth. The center, woozy from the play and bleeding from his lower lip, then front-rimmed the first free throw.


Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 30, 2009


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