CHICAGO (AP) – Three overtime games, including one that needed two extra periods. Another one went down to the wire in regulation. And this series isn’t over yet.

With a 3-2 lead, Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics will try to wrap up their first-round thriller with the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 on Thursday.

“We want to be done with this series,” Boston’s Glen Davis said after Tuesday’s 106-104 overtime win.

And who could blame him?

The Bulls certainly aren’t making this easy on the defending champions. The three overtime games this series are an NBA record, and although the Bulls left Boston bloodied, they’re not quite beaten as it shifts back to Chicago.

They are a little frustrated, though.

After all, they led by 11 early in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, only to see Paul Pierce deliver the big shots and Brad Miller absorb one at the end of the game.

Pierce hit the tying jumper with 10 seconds left in regulation. In overtime, he buried his third straight shot over John Salmons – a long jumper – with 3.4 seconds remaining.

The Bulls’ Brad Miller then had a clear path to the rim, but instead of a tying layup, he got a shot to the mouth from Boston’s Rajon Rondo. Bloody and woozy, he then missed both free throws – the second intentionally – and the Celtics hung on for the victory.

“It was a great foul by Rondo,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Or was it a flagrant foul? The Bulls thought it was, but the league said Rondo won’t be penalized.

While the foul can be debated, so can the decision not to double-team Pierce. That opened Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro to another round of second-guessing after he raised some eyebrows by not having any timeouts at the end of regulation in Game 1 and at the end of Game 2.

“Yeah, I thought about doubling him a lot,” Del Negro said.

So why didn’t they?

“They’ve picked us apart a little bit with that on the glass, and he hits some tough fadeaway shots with hands in his face,” Del Negro said. “That’s what great players do, they make big plays. That’s something we’ll talk about again, but we’ve come with double teams, we’ve come with single teams, we’ve come off bigs, we’ve come off littles, and he’s seen it all. He’s an All-Star player for a reason, so it’s a tough set and we just have to fight through.”

While the foul call and the strategy against Pierce can be argued, this can’t: These teams are putting on quite fight despite all their pain.

The blow to Miller capped a night in which Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich had a cut above his right eye reopened and Ben Gordon played despite a strained left hamstring that put his status for the game in doubt.

Pierce, meanwhile, bruised his left calf but didn’t expect it to hamper him in Game 6.

“I’m a little sore, but I’ll use today to recover, get a message, rest and I’ll be ready,” Pierce said Wednesday at the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Mass., before leaving for Chicago. “It’s nothing more than a light bruise on the calf muscle so some ice and stuff should be able to take care of it.”

Considering they’re already without Kevin Garnett (knee), the last thing the Celtics need is an injury to Pierce. It would also help if he and Allen were a little more consistent, although the Celtics have gotten standout performances from Rondo, Davis and Kendrick Perkins.

NBA: No penalty for Rondo’s hard foul

WALTHAM, Mass. – The NBA said Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo won’t be penalized for his hard foul on Chicago’s Brad Miller in the closing seconds of Game 5.

League spokesman Tim Frank said Wednesday that the play “stands as called.” That means no fine or suspension for Rondo or even flagrant foul points that could lead to a suspension if they accumulate.

With the Bulls trailing by two in the final seconds of overtime on Tuesday night, Miller had a clear path to the basket. But Rondo jumped and hit him across the face and the lay-in attempt sailed wide.

Though Rondo made contact with Miller above the shoulders, NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson said the play fell short of warranting a flagrant foul. “We felt Rondo was making a basketball play and going for the ball after a blown defensive assignment by the Celtic team,” Jackson said.

“In terms of the criteria that we use to evaluate a flagrant foul penalty one, generally we like to consider whether or not there was a windup, an appropriate level of impact and a follow-through. And with this foul, we didn’t see a windup, nor did he follow through. So for that reason we’re not going to upgrade this foul to a flagrant foul penalty one.”

Miller missed the free throws that could have tied it, and the Celtics won 106-104 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

AP-ES-04-29-09 1811EDT


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