|Boston’s Paul Pierce, left, drives against Richard
Hamilton in Game 5 [AFP]
Ray Allen found his shooting touch just in time to put the Boston Celtics within one win of the NBA finals for the first time since they had the original Big Three firing in 1987.
Allen scored 29, hitting a long 2-pointer after Detroit came within one point with a minute left, then he and Kevin Garnett each made a pair of free throws down the stretch as the Celtics beat the Detroit Pistons 106-102 to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Garnett scored 33, his most in the playoffs this year, Kendrick Perkins had 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo added seven points, 13 assists and six rebounds for Boston.
“We knew the significance of this game,” said Garnett.
“You don’t win this game, you put basically yourself in a corner. … They’re experienced, and they’ve been in a lot of pressure situations. Now it’s up to us to go up there and try to get one.”
Game 6 is Friday in Detroit, and with a victory there or on Sunday back in Boston, the Celtics would advance to the NBA finals for the first time since Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish took them there in 1987.
Chauncey Billups scored 26 and Richard Hamilton had 25 points for Detroit, which has reached the conference finals six consecutive years but advanced further just twice and won one title in that span.
Hitting form at the right time
The 29 points was also a playoff high for Allen, the usually reliable scorer who had been cold for most of the playoffs.
“My feeling right now is no different than if I scored 10 points and we won the game. It’s a great feeling,” Allen said.
“Just winning gives me the greatest joy, regardless of what I’ve done.”
Billups twice drove to the basket in the final 10 seconds, hoping for a foul that wasn’t there.
He also missed an inconsequential 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Boston led by as many as 17 in the third quarter, but Hamilton scored 13 points during a 21-8 Detroit run that made it 92-88 with 4:46 left.
Boston led 100-96 before Rodney Stuckey hit a 3-pointer with 1:22 left.
But, after a timeout with 6 seconds left on the shot clock, Allen took the inbounds pass and put up a jumper to give Boston a three-point lead.
Billups tried an off-balance layup that missed, but in the fight for the rebound the Celtics tipped it out of bounds.
Billups drove again, putting it harmlessly off the front of the rim.
The Celtics ran down the 24-second clock before Garnett was forced to take an off-balance jumper. Rondo fouled Stuckey, and he hit both free throws to make it 102-101 with 8.2 seconds left.
Allen matched them, then Rondo again wrapped up Stuckey.
But this time the rookie missed the first, giving the Boston Garden crowd a reason to erupt.
Garnett hit a pair of free throws to clinch it.