The younger Boston Celtics stars are stepping up in the absence of Kevin Garnett and the Chicago Bulls are simply stepping up.
The dueling teams delivered another tight, back-and-forth overtime game that came down to the final precious seconds.
This time, the Celtics prevailed on the late-game heroics of their captain.
Paul Pierce led the Celtics in minutes with 51 and scored the final six points, including a 20-foot jumper with 3.4 seconds remaining in OT, to finish with 26 as the Celtics defeated the Bulls 106-104 in the third overtime game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, which the Celtics now lead 3-2.
Kendrick Perkins pulled down 19 rebounds, his postseason career-high, and Rajon Rondo nearly reached another triple-double, finishing with 28 points, 11 assists, and 4 rebounds in 49 minutes.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis also had a big night for the Celtics, scoring 21 on 7-for-11 shooting.
Ben Gordon led the Bulls in scoring after an MRI revealed a strained hamstring and left him day-to-day. Although Gordon only shot 6-for-21 in field goals, he was 11-for-12 from the free-throw line and ended up with 26 points.
The Bulls kept themselves in the game with far superior bench play. Kirk Hinrich played 31 minutes off the bench and scored 19 points, while the entire Celtics bench was only 2-for-10 in shooting all night.
With two seconds remaining in OT, Brad Miller had a chance to make two free-throws to tie the game and likely send it to double overtime, but missed his first shot.
Game Six will be in Chicago on Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. EST. The Bulls would like to see more of the same out of Joakim Noahwho nearly matched Perkins with 11 points and 17 rebounds and more out of Derrick Rose, who scored only 14 and had no free-throw attempts.
The Celtics are certainly not going to want to be forced to rely on their starters as much as they did on Tuesday night.
The way this series is going, it’s almost safe to predict another OT game in Game Six.
I say why not? This series has just about already reached classic status.