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Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Celtics-Bulls: Where Excitement Happens

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

If the NBA needs some fresh footage for its, ``The Playoffs: Where Amazing Happens,'' schtick, it better have a camera crew in Boston for Game 5 of the Celtics' first-round series against the Chicago Bulls.

This is the series where everything happens. Overtimes. Ben Gordon and Ray Allen. Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. Goosebumps. And now, a best two-out-of-three scenario, thanks to the Bulls' 121-118 double-overtime win at the United Center Sunday afternoon. This series is tighter than spandex on Big Baby Davis. Three of the first four games have been decided by a combined eight points. Two of the games have already wandered into overtime. If this thing gets any more exciting, the league will have to issue defibrillators to ticket holders.

``In the playoffs you've got to learn how to forget quick,'' said the Celtics' Paul Pierce. Speak for yourself. We want to remember every delicious detail of this series, especially Sunday's Game 4, which gets the instant classic limo treatment Monday night on the mothership network.

And if there's such a thing as an opening-round classic, then the Bulls-Celtics qualifies. It's the series that keeps giving, thanks to the Bulls' rookie point guard Rose, the Celtics' second-year point guard Rajon Rondo, the veteran guardsthe ridiculously fearless Gordon of the Bulls, the Celtics' shaved-headed assassin Allen. It's the series you don't want to see endand might not for at least another three games.



``Maybe we like Chicago a lot,'' said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who was born and raised here. ``Maybe we want to come back. The pizza's frickin' good.''

He'll be back in town for Thursday night's Game 6. But first comes Tuesday evening's Game 5 in Boston. Win at The Garden and the Celtics take a 3-2 series lead with two chances to close it out. Lose, and the already frail chances of a Celtics NBA two-peat become skinnier than Rondo. The Celtics could have, perhaps should have won this game. Just like they could have, should have won Game 1. Not that it matters now.

``We had this one,'' said Rivers. ``They did too.''

The Celtics had a three-point lead with 9 seconds remaining in the first OT when Gordon squirted free of Pierce and made a 26-footer to send the game into more bonus hoops. That's when Gordon, who finished with 22 points, grabbed a region directly south of his waistband.

The gesture won't make it into ``The NBA Cares'' campaign, but you had to be there to understand his less-than-elegant point. The Bulls, who could have, perhaps should have, won this thing in regulation (Allen tied it up with a 3-pointer of his own with 9.8 seconds left) aren't going anywhereexcept back to the Boston.

``It looked bleak there,'' said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. ``It was just a great basketball game.''

It was great because Gordon (22 points) keeps making shots from Michigan Avenue, or with half of Boston attached to his hip, or both. And he makes them when they matter most.

It was great because the rookie Rose is a basketball work in progressmistake prone (7 turnovers), but spectacular (23 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists) all at the same time.

It was great because Rondo is playing even better (his second triple double of the series, this time 25 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and only 1 turnover in 55:08 of playing time in Sunday's game). ``Other than taking out the garbage, I don't know what else he can do,'' said Rivers.

It was great because Allen, who finished with 28 points, caused the United Center crowd to actually groan nearly every time he took a shot. ``Everybody's making a big shot,'' said Rose. ``Big shot after big shot.''

The Bulls are the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed; the Celtics the No. 2 seed and defending world champions. But seeding and rings have become meaningless as this series reaches critical mass.

``It's about a test of wills at this point in the series,'' said Pierce.

Pierce had six of the Celtics' 19 turnovers and couldn't close fast enough on Gordon's game-tying trey in OT. He was in semi-Blame Me mode after the game.

Glen ``Big Baby'' Davis was 4 of 16 from the field for Boston. Rivers said Davis was so frustrated during the first three quarters of the game ``he literally couldn't play.''

And did we mention that Rivers wanted someone  anyone -- to foul Gordon before he made that 3-pointer.

``But, hell, give him credit,'' Rivers said. ``Even when you screw it up, they still have to make the shot.''

Gordon made the shot. Rose made shots. John Salmons made crucial free throws. The Bulls' bench outscored the Celtics' reserves 30-11. Do the math and you get a classic.

We're not the only ones who know this is special. The Celtics' bench wouldn't sit down during most of the overtimes. The United Center audience made enough noise to cause inner ear damage. I don't know who selects ESPN's Plays of the Day, but Nos. 1 through 5 had to come from this game.

``Well, we've got to stop meeting like this,'' said Rivers, as he took his place behind the microphone in the postgame presser.

No, this is exactly how we need to meet. The more overtimes, the better.

Gene Wojciechowski is a senior national columnist for ESPN.com and ESPNChicago.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.