BOSTON: Paul Pierce made three straight jumpers in the final 77 seconds of overtime and the Boston Celtics held on to beat the Chicago Bulls 106-104 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.
Rajon Rondo scored 28 points with 11 assists and eight rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins had 16 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks for the Celtics. It was the third time in five games the teams have needed overtime, a surprising first-round struggle for the defending NBA champions.
Ben Gordon scored 26 and Joakim Noah had 11 points and 17 rebounds for Chicago, but Brad Miller missed the potential game-tying free throws with 2 seconds left in overtime.
The Bulls return home for Game 6 on Thursday night hoping to extend the series; Game 7, if necessary, would be in Boston on Saturday.
Pierce, who scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half and overtime, gave Boston a 102-101 lead with 1:17 left, then hit another with 37 seconds to play to make it 104-101 before Tony Allen fouled Gordon while attempting a 3-pointer with 28 seconds to play. Gordon hit all three free throws to tie it 104-all.
Pierce got the ball and dribbled down the clock before hitting a long 2-pointer over John Salmons with 3.4 seconds left. The Bulls called a timeout and got the ball in to Brad Miller, who had a surprisingly clear path to the basket but sailed 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 with 2 seconds left.
With the building shaking, Miller missed the first, then tried to miss the second on purpose but failed to hit the rim.
It was another close call for the Celtics — this time with two of the Big Three on the bench. Kevin Garnett is out for what could be the entire playoff run with strained ligaments in his right knee, and Ray Allen — who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Game 2 — fouled out with 5:27 left in regulation.
The Bulls scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to open the first double-digit lead of the game. The Celtics scored nine in a row to make it a one-point game, 83-82, with 4:27 left, but it was costly because Ray Allen fouled out 18 seconds after hitting a key 3-pointer.
Boston tied it 91-all after another block by Perkins sent Rondo off on a fast break, and he found Pierce for the layup with 66 seconds left in regulation. The point guards traded mistakes, then Gordon hit a leaner from the right side to give the Bulls the lead with 16 seconds left.
But Pierce sank a 15-footer to tie it at 93 with 10.5 seconds left and send it into overtime.