for this game

Celtics push Pistons to brink of elimination

May 29, 2008 - 5:57 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics front court came up big Wednesday night in Game Five of the Eastern Conference finals. And as a result, the Celtics are on the brink of returning to the NBA Finals.

Kevin Garnett poured in a game-high 33 points while Kendrick Perkins added 18 points and 16 rebounds as the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 106-102, to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"We knew the significance of this game," Garnett said. "You don't win this game, you basically put yourself in a corner."

"A crucial game at home, get the lead just to get some momentum back and we knew it was going to be one of the toughest games of the series," Celtics captain Paul Pierce added.

Ray Allen had a playoff-high 29 points and nailed a shot from the corner as the shot clock was winding down to help preserve the nail-biting win.

"I thought we had good focus, good energy to begin with," Garnett said. "I thought the third quarter was big for us. They made a run but, for the most part, you know they're going to make a run."

Chauncey Billups had 26 while Richard Hamilton added 25 to lead Detroit, which nearly overcame a 17-point second-half deficit in the closing minutes. Hamilton strained his right elbow with 8.2 seconds left but X-rays were negative.

The Celtics can advance to the NBA Finals with a victory in Game Six at Detroit on Friday night.

"It's a huge game," Pierce said. "We don't get this game, we put ourselves in a position to have to win another road game. We know how tough it is to win out there in Detroit. It's one of the biggest games that we played all year long."

Garnett opened the fourth quarter with a jumper to give the Celtics a 15-point lead at 86-71, but the Pistons drew to within 91-85 on a 7-0 run before Rasheed Wallace drew a technical foul with 5:18 remaining to end the spurt.

Afterward, the volatile Wallace tore into officials Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer.

"All them (garbage) calls they had out there," Wallace said. "Mike and Kenny, you saw that (garbage), a lot of them phantom calls, cats flapping and falling, they're calling that (garbage). That (garbage) ain't basketball, what they run out there. It's all entertainment, all that (bleeping) entertainment."

Billups drained a 28-foot 3-pointer with 4:47 remaining to draw Detroit to within four, 92-88, but Rajon Rondo responded with a layup to push the Boston lead back to six.

After two free throws by Garnett put Boston ahead, 98-90, with 3:32 remaining, Billups was fouled by Rondo while attempting a 3-pointer and made all three to pull Detroit within five.

Pierce and Rondo each hit 1-of-2 from the line, giving Boston a 100-96 lead. But rookie Rodney Stuckey drained a 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining to draw the Pistons to within one, 100-99.

"We stopped attacking, they put us on our heels and we weren't being aggressive," Rondo said.

Allen responded by drilling a jumper from the left wing as the shot clock was winding down with 1:02 remaining to give Boston a 102-99 lead. It was only Boston's second field goal in eight-plus minutes.

"Throughout the season, the one thing I learned about me on the team is that I don't need to score," Allen said. "Scoring is going to help the team, but we have so many options on this team that I became more efficient with my scoring."

Allen has been mired in a shooting slump throughout the postseason but he broke out in Game Five, hitting 9-of-15 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the arc.

"You know Ray is going to continue to be Ray, regardless of how he shoots," Pierce said. "Just his presence on the floor alone is a great help."

Allen led Boston's third-quarter assault on Detroit, scoring 16 and connecting on three 3-pointers from beyond the arc.

"It was obviously our worst quarter of basketball tonight," Billups said. "They got out on the open floor and started hitting guys for threes, just wide-open threes."

With each team looking to establish itself, the two teams exchanged several scoring spurts in the opening quarter.

The Celtics built leads of 14-8 and 17-11 only to see the Pistons answer with runs that included 3-point field goals from Wallace each time.

Perkins, who entered the game averaging just under eight points in the first four games of the series, was dominant in the paint for the Celtics.

Not only did he score eight points in the first quarter, he hauled in eight rebounds as the Celtics outrebounded the Pistons, 15-6.

"Perkins is eating us up," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "The games that they've won, he's had big games. He's played well for them as far as on the glass. Tonight was a game where Perkins played well, Rondo did a great job assist-wise, Allen had his best game and Garnett was great tonight. So they had four guys that played at a high level."

Perkins and Pierce each had eight points to lead Boston while Wallace had nine to pace Detroit as the teams were tied at 23-23 after one.

Detroit took command of the game early in the second, building an eight-point lead. But the Celtics went on a 16-4 run to end the first half, highlighted by Garnett's desperation 3-point bank shot as the shot clock expired with 1:23 remaining before halftime.

Garnett had 11 points in the second quarter to spark the Celtics comeback.

Perkins had a double-double at halftime with 12 points and 13 rebounds, outrebounding the entire Pistons team by two in that stretch. He had his highest total on the boards since pulling down 20 against Detroit on March 5.

"I said I was going to be aggressive offensively. I just said I was going to play with a lot of energy," Perkins said. "I knew our 'Big Three' veteran guys, I know this opportunity don't come much, and I knew if I was up in age, up in my 30s, and a young fellow was right there, I'd want him to go all out for me, too.

"My thing is I'm going to leave it out there on the court, for myself, for my teammates and for everybody."

    DETROIT 102

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