Kevin Garnett was in street clothes. Ray Allen fouled out. The Boston Celtics’ Big Three was down to one, and Paul Pierce was ready.
The MVP of last year’s NBA Finals scored 26 points, making one jumper to tie the score at the end of regulation and three more in the final 77 seconds of overtime Tuesday night to help the Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 106-104 and take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.
“I just thought when Ray fouled out it was time for me to really step up,” said Pierce, who scored 12 points in the 10 minutes after Allen left the game. “Better late than never.”
Rajon Rondo scored 28 points with 11 assists and eight rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins had 16 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks for Boston.
Ben Gordon scored 26 and Joakim Noah had 11 points and 17 rebounds for Chicago, but Brad Miller missed the potential tying free throws with two seconds left in overtime after Rondo fouled him to prevent an easy layup.
Miller, who was hit in the head on the foul, got stitches in his mouth after the game, and Bulls Coach Vinny Del Negro said it should have been called a flagrant foul.
“We got a lot of guys getting head shots this series -- I mean a whole lot of them -- and it hasn’t been a flagrant. So everybody’s had to shake off these high hits,” Miller said. “I didn’t see it, but I felt it. . . . There was blood on the floor. I don’t even know if they got it all cleaned off.”
Orlando 91, Philadelphia 78 -- Dwight Howard had 24 points and a career playoff-high 24 rebounds, a dominating performance that helped give the Magic a 3-2 series lead at Orlando, Fla.
It was Howard’s fourth career playoff game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.
Rashard Lewis snapped out of his playoff slump with 24 points, and Rafer Alston scored 14 for the Magic.
Andre Iguodala scored 26 points and led a second-half charge that fizzled fast, and Andre Miller had 17 points for Philadelphia.
Dallas 106, San Antonio 93 -- Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points and the Mavericks won a playoff series for the first time since 2006, eliminating the Spurs in five games at San Antonio.
It is the first time third-seeded San Antonio has lost in the opening round since 2000.
Tim Duncan scored 30 and Tony Parker had 26 but once again got little help -- the story of the series for the two-dimensional Spurs.
Getting to the West semifinals is a dramatic turn for the Mavericks, who were a borderline playoff team as late as March and got a public lashing from owner Mark Cuban after a listless loss to woeful Oklahoma City.