JIMMY GOLEN AP Sports Writer BOSTON (AP)
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-ofseven 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 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 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. We had our chances, and that's what makes it so tough. But we'll be back: I still feel that we can win the series." It was the third time in five games the teams have needed overtime, a surprising first-round struggle for the defending NBA champions. This time, they did it with two of the Big Three on the bench: Garnett is out for what could be the entire playoff run with strained ligaments in his right knee, and Allen who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Game 2 fouled out with 5:27 left in regulation. "When you've got Ray fouled out of the game and you're searching for bodies, it didn't look good," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "And we dug down and won the game." Pierce made a jumper to give Boston a 102-101 lead with 1:17 left, 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 2-pointer over John Salmons with 3.4 seconds remaining. Pierce played 50 minutes, 40 seconds 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. "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 with 2 seconds left. 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 I mean a whole lot of them and it hasn't been a flagrant. So everybody's had to shake off these high hits," Miller said. "I didn't see it but I felt it. ... There was blood on the floor. I don't even know if they got it all cleaned off." The Bulls led 77-66 early in the fourth before the Celtics scored nine in a row to make it 83-82 with 4:27 left. But the run was costly because Ray Allen fouled out 18 seconds after hitting a key 3-pointer. Gordon hit a leaner from the right side to give the Bulls the lead with 16 seconds left. But Pierce sank a 15-foot spinner from the key to tie it at 93 with 10.5 seconds left and send it into overtime. Magic 91, 76ers 78 ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Dwight Howard did so much damage to the Philadelphia 76ers he set off a coaching feud. Howard had 24 points and a career playoff-high 24 rebounds, a dominating performance that powered the Magic to a 91-78 victory over the Sixers on Tuesday night and gave Orlando a 3-2 series lead. Afterward, Philadelphia coach Tony DiLeo said Howard should have been called for 3 seconds in the lane several times and asked the league to look into an elbow from Howard on Samuel Dalembert. "Dwight Howard had a great game, and he's a great player, but he just lives in the 3-second lane on offense and defense," DiLeo said. "I'm just saying he's standing in the 3-second lane on offense and defense. He's a great player, and he doesn't need any advantages." Magic coach Stan Van Gundy heard DiLeo's remarks, took the podium and defended his star center by taking a shot at DiLeo. "Am I supposed to come up here and talk about the game. Or am I supposed to come up here and lobby for the calls I want the next game?" Van Gundy said. "Is that what it's about now? We're supposed to lobby for the calls we want the next game? Let's just play the games. "I guess that's the only reason Dwight's having success in this series. It has nothing to do with the fact that he's good." Howard had help. Rashard Lewis snapped out of his playoff slump with a series-high 24 points, and Rafer Alston scored 14 for the Magic. But it was Howard's fourth career playoff game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds that carried the Magic. Andre Iguodala scored 26 points and led a second-half charge that fizzled fast, and Andre Miller added 17 points for Philadelphia. The Sixers face elimination in Game 6 in the best-of-seven series on Thursday in Philadelphia. A potential Game 7 would be Saturday in Orlando. Iguodala said it was hard to tell if Howard should have been whistled, but was sure of one thing. "I just know when I'm going to the basket, he's always there," Iguodala said. The Magic managed to keep homecourt advantage without starting shooting guard Courtney Lee, who took an elbow to the head from Howard early in the first quarter and never returned. He was taken to the hospital for precautionary tests. Thanks to Howard, he wasn't missed. Howard led a third-quarter surge, muscling his way past the Sixers and elevating above everyone. He had two dunks, including an alley-oop from Hedo Turkoglu over Theo Ratliff, that highlighted a 12-5 run to put the Magic ahead 58-47 and put the blue-and-white crowd into a Thunderstick-pounding frenzy. But just like they've done all series, the Sixers came back. Philadelphia cut the deficit to four points in only a few minutes on Iguodala's three-point play, converting a running layup on a foul by Turkoglu. The Magic went ahead 69-60 at the end of the period on a 3-pointer by Turkoglu, and they took a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter on a layup by Howard. The Sixers are now in the same position as a year ago, when they took a 2-1 series lead on Detroit before losing in six games. Philadelphia hasn't won a playoff series since beating New Orleans in the first round in 2003. Plans changed fast for the Magic. Lee's injury knocked him out of the game and possibly longer and threw off Orlando's rotation. Howard soared high and blocked a shot by Willie Green on the play in the first quarter. Howard's elbow came down on Lee, who was on the floor for a few minutes before going to the locker room for good with a towel to his head. His status for Game 6 was not immediately clear. What had DiLeo upset was another elbow from Howard. Howard and Dalembert got tangled up going for a rebound in the first quarter, and Howard was called for a technical foul on the play after he apparently hit Dalembert with his elbow. Howard said he doesn't feel he should face any suspensions for the hit. "Very physical in the paint," Howard said. "It's been very physical in the series. All we can do is hope for the best. It's been a dogfight all series. It wasn't like I was out there trying to hurt anybody." Van Gundy also had a joking response to DiLeo's comments on the elbow allegation: "We're going to have the league look at Dwight's elbow on (Lee), too." Mavricks 106, Spurs 93 SAN ANTONIO (AP) Jason Terry galloped down court after one big shot and Josh Howard skipped along the sideline after another. For what the Dallas Mavericks were about to pull off, they might as well have danced. For the first time since 2006, the Mavericks are moving past the first round. And for the first time since 2000, the San Antonio Spurs are not. Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points in his first breakout game of a lopsided series, and the Mavericks won a playoff series for the first time in three years by eliminating the Spurs in five games with a 106-93 victory on Tuesday night. Besides closing another chapter between the Texas rivals, this series seemed to signal more: that the Mavericks are much better than their No. 6 seed might suggest, and whether the Spurs are slipping into a new stage after winning four NBA titles in the past decade. "(We) went through a lot this year, a very turbulent year," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Injuries. Ups, downs, emotional stuff, and we really stuck together. We came together at the right time." The Mavericks advance to the Western Conference semifinals to play either Denver or New Orleans. The Nuggets lead that series 3-1 and can finish off the Hornets on Wednesday at Denver. Tim Duncan scored 30 and Tony Parker had 26 but again got little help the story of the series for the twodimensional Spurs. Predictions that the Spurs were doomed while Manu Ginobili sat out the playoffs with a bum ankle appeared largely validated, as San Antonio never got anyone to step up in his absence. For Duncan, it's the first time in his career he couldn't lead the Spurs past the opening round. "They had more firepower than us. They played better than us," said Duncan, who never played in San Antonio's first-round loss in 2000 because of a knee injury. "However you want to put it, obviously they were the better team this year. That's all you can say." Getting to the West semifinals is a dramatic turn for the Mavericks, who were a borderline playoff team as late as March and got a public lashing from owner Mark Cuban after a listless loss to woeful Oklahoma City. Dallas pulled together to win seven of nine entering the playoffs, and has now won 11 of its last 14. The Mavs can also stick this to their Interstate 35 rivals: only twice in the Duncan era have the Spurs been eliminated on their home court, and both have came courtesy of Dallas. Howard rang in his 29th birthday with 17 points, and may have permission from Carlisle to celebrate this time. Howard enraged former coach Avery Johnson last year when he didn't cancel his birthday plans despite a blistering Mavs playoff defeat, but the party may be on coach Carlisle after this series win. "I think (Howard) probably is our MVP of the series," Carlisle said. "He played great. He was there for us a lot of big plays that didn't necessarily lead to scores."