for this game

Pierce, Celtics advance to NBA Finals

May 31, 2008 - 5:58 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce brought it home for the Boston Celtics - literally.

Pierce scored 27 points as the Celtics ambushed the Detroit Pistons in the fourth quarter and advanced to the NBA Finals with an 89-81 victory in Game Six of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night.

Ray Allen scored 17 points and Kevin Garnett added 16 for Boston, which will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the championship series, which begins Thursday in Beantown.

Bitter rivals in years past, the Celtics and Lakers have not met in the Finals since 1987 - the last appearance for Boston on the NBA's biggest stage.

"The Lakers won the West, they were the best team," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We won the East, we were the best team, and now we get to play each other. I think the right two teams are playing each other."

Pierce, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, will go up against his hometown team in a glamorous Finals matchup. The 30-year-old admitted to becoming a basketball fan because of the Celtics-Lakers matchups in the 1980s.

"It means everything to Boston fans," Pierce said. "To me, I think that's what pretty much got me started in basketball, growing up in Los Angeles, watching the Lakers and the Celtics, and it's ironic, just being a Celtic, growing up, now you're playing against the Lakers in the Finals.

"As a kid, I hated the Celtics. I'm going back home to play against my team that I grew up watching. It's a dream come true, man, just thinking about it. I think that rivalry really revolutionized the game of basketball, and now I'm a part of it."

Ironically, he aims to help Boston to its first NBA championship since 1986. He started his charge toward a title in the final 12 minutes of Friday's game by sparking his team to an inspired finish.

The Celtics, who avoided a third straight Game Seven this postseason, outscored the Pistons, 29-13, in the final period to secure the victory. Boston used a powerful 23-6 run to seal the win.

"I'm happy to be a part of this, man," Pierce said. "It's been a long process. I could write a whole book on my emotions right now. But I'm just happy to be in this position, still with the Boston Celtics."

Pierce was the star of that spurt, using his entire arsenal in one mini-burst.

After Jason Maxiell gave Detroit a 74-72 edge with a fadeaway jumper, Pierce sliced through the lane and completed a three-point play to give the Celtics the lead for good with 5:25 remaining.

"Paul had a real good game," Garnett said. "I thought he did a great job of imposing his will. I think he had a big three-point play that was just huge for us. He was just huge for us all series when we needed him."

He added a pretty fadeaway and two free throws on Boston's next two possessions to give his team a five-point bulge with 4:11 left in the game.

The Celtics capped their fourth-quarter burst almost two minutes later, when Rajon Rondo nailed a wide-open jumper for an 83-76 advantage, forcing a timeout by the Pistons.

"We had some good looks, whether it was we ran out of juice in the fourth or whatever, because we played at such an energy level to get back in the game," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "The third quarter we got up 70-60 and, within a short span, the lead was cut. It just got to a point where we couldn't make a big shot."

But Chauncey Billups then completed a quick three-point play after the break to cut Detroit's deficit to four. After a defensive stop, Tayshaun Prince committed perhaps the costliest turnover of the season for the Pistons.

The lanky forward, who is one of the smarter players in the league, held the ball out in the open after grabbing a defensive rebound and had it swiped by Celtics forward James Posey, who then set up two free throws by Pierce with 1:35 left.

The foul shots effectively sealed the game and began the celebration for Pierce, who started a raucous "Beat L.A.!" chant - a familiar refrain for Celtics fans in the team's heyday - in the locker room during the trophy presentation.

Pierce's exuberance is understandable, especially since he, Garnett and Allen - Boston's "Big Three" - are making their first career appearances in the Finals.

They will face off with the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, who is the reigning Most Valuable Player and a three-time NBA champion.

While those are impressive accolades, the Celtics' success has taken center stage this season. Boston, which won 66 games, finished with the second-worst record in the NBA last campaign, sparking the biggest turnaround in league history.

"It makes me think about a year ago today what I was doing," Pierce said. "To be in this position, (still with the Celtics) going to the Finals, it's nothing I can really put into words."

Billups scored 29 points for Detroit, which lost in the Eastern Conference finals for the third straight season. The defeat already has raised questions about the job security of coach Flip Saunders.

"It is disappointing to lose like this again because I felt like we were better this year than we were last year," Billups said. "We lost to a team that was good, man. They were locked in, they were together and they were better right now, they are."

Battling a strained right elbow, Richard Hamilton scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting for the Pistons, who received just 11 points from their bench.

"When you think about all the hard work that we put in, you get into this situation again and kind of the same thing's happening," Hamilton said. "It's tough."

    BOSTON 89

    May 30 11:20 PM
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    Celtics vs. PistonsMay 30 8:53 AM