Few flaws present for Celtics, Allen in win vs. Pistons
By: By HOWARD ULMAN, AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) — Ray Allen raised his arms to fire up the Boston crowd with 4.5 seconds left. The struggling Celtics sharpshooter already had excited the fans by finding his shooting touch Wednesday night and helping Boston move one win away from its first NBA finals in 21 years. “My feeling now is no different from if I had scored 10 points and we still won the game,” said Allen, who scored 29 in the 106-102 win over the Pistons. “It’s a great feeling because (of) the joy on everybody’s face.” The Celtics lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final 3-2 and can wrap it up Friday night at Detroit. If not, Game 7 will be in Boston on Sunday night. But their joy nearly turned to misery as they let a 17-point lead with 1:19 left in the third quarter drop to 100-99 with 1:23 to go in the game. Then Boston took a 20-second timeout to set up a play for Allen or Kevin Garnett. Allen caught the inbounds pass from James Posey and immediately took a shot from the left corner. It went in and the crowd roared. “I assumed he threw it because I was open,” Allen said. “Posey made a play and it was time for me to put the shot up.” Rodney Stuckey hit two free throws to make it 102-101 with 8.2 seconds left, and Allen followed with two more to restore the 3-point lead with 6.3 seconds remaining. Then Stuckey was fouled and, as Allen played cheerleader a few feet behind him, the Pistons rookie missed the first shot then made the second. Garnett, who led all scorers with 33 points, finished with two free throws with 3.4 seconds to play. “We knew the significance of this game,” Garnett said. “You don’t win this game, you put basically yourself in a corner.” Now the Pistons, in their sixth straight conference final, must win at home to have a chance at their second NBA title in that span. “Our experience and our being in this for so long and being in so many tough situations, and us being at home helps,” said Chauncey Billups, who led Detroit with 26 points. “Those are the kind of things that you’ve got to kind of lean on.” The Celtics relied on their starters — Posey’s three points were the only ones from the bench — and all five came through. Kendrick Perkins had career playoff highs of 18 points and 16 rebounds, Paul Pierce had 16 points, and Rajon Rondo had 13 assists and four steals. And Allen made 9-of-15 shots (60 percent) after hitting just 38.4 percent in his other 18 playoff games this year. Richard Hamilton had 25 points but left the building with his right arm in a sling after straining his elbow with 8.2 seconds left. Coach Flip Saunders was hopeful he could play Friday. “We’re not going away,” Saunders said. “We didn’t rebound but we did a lot of other good things to put ourselves in position to be in the game. That was the surprising thing, that we were in the game at the end. I’m sure everybody was surprised.” The Celtics held a 42-25 rebounding advantage and Perkins outrebounded the entire Pistons team 13-11 in the first half. “I just said I was going to play with a lot of energy,” he said. With Garnett hitting outside shots, the Pistons big men were pulled away from the basket, opening rebounding opportunities for the Celtics. The last time they reached the finals was in 1987 with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games and could meet them again. “Detroit is a great team,” Rondo said. “They know how to close it out. We are still trying to learn and close it out ourselves.” They had trouble doing that Wednesday as the Pistons charged back from an 84-67 deficit. Hamilton scored 13 points during a 21-8 Detroit run that made it 92-88 with 4:46 left. Boston led 100-96 before Stuckey hit a 3-pointer with 1:22 to go. But, after a timeout with 6 seconds left on the shot clock, Allen hit his big basket from in front of Detroit’s bench. “Big shot,” Rondo said. “Biggest shot, I think, of his career.” Notes: The Pistons took eight more free throws than the Celtics, but Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace said, “A lot of those foul calls, cats were flopping and falling all over the floor.” He picked up a technical with 5:18 left, his sixth of the postseason. The next one earns him a one-game suspension. … Wallace was 6-of-9 on 3-pointers, providing all his 18 points, after going 3-for-27 in his previous eight games. … Every Celtic starter played at least 38 minutes. … Patriots coach Bill Belichick and linebacker Tedy Bruschi were in the crowd. … Antonio McDyess had four points and five rebounds and fouled out with five minutes left. He had 21 points and 16 rebounds in Detroit’s Game 4 win.