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Playoff Roundup

Celtics, Rockets Push It To the Seven-Game Limit

Associated Press
Friday, May 6, 2005; Page D03

The Boston Celtics earned themselves one more chance at home, though that's hardly been an advantage so far.

In the wildest game yet of a series headed to a Game 7, the visiting Celtics overcame the late ejection of Paul Pierce and sent their first-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers back to Boston for the deciding game with a 92-89 victory last night.

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"That is the craziest . . . game I've ever seen in my life," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. "This series has just been unreal."

In the six games, the home team has won twice. Three of the games were blowouts, and each time the losing team came back to win the next one on the road.

On Thursday night, Antoine Walker scored 24 points, including a go-ahead three-pointer early in overtime and the clinching basket with a minute to go.

"I was just trying to rally the troops together," Walker said. "We were in a hostile environment and I tried to rally the troops to keep going on and play."

Boston came back from an 11-point deficit, took the lead late in the second quarter and stayed in front until the closing seconds of regulation, when Pierce was ejected for his second technical foul.

Boston led, 84-83, at the time, and Pierce had just been intentionally fouled by Jamaal Tinsley as the Pacers tried to stop the clock. Tinsley hit Pierce in the neck while fouling him, and Pierce swung his elbow in anger.

"It was an overreaction to a hard foul and I lost my cool out there. It almost cost us," Pierce said. "I'm just happy we got the win. I don't know how I'd feel if we lost this game."

Referee Steve Javie did not immediately make a call. But after huddling with the other two officials, Pierce was assessed his second technical foul of the game -- an automatic ejection.

"I thought Tinsley should have been kicked out of the game for some of the dirty things he did to us. He had his hands in my face on the last play, and that's why I overreacted," Pierce said. "It won't happen again."

Reggie Miller hit the technical foul shot to tie the game, and the Pacers got to choose which Celtics player would replace Pierce at the foul line. They selected Kendrick Perkins, a 64 percent foul shooter, and he missed both shots.

The Pacers had a chance to win, but Miller shot an airball from well behind the three-point line, forcing the overtime.

"When the incident happened with Paul, all I told the team . . . was that we cannot lose this game," Rivers said. "We cannot. . . . We've played all year to have a Game 7 in our place."

• ROCKETS 101, MAVERICKS 83: Tracy McGrady was not going to suffer through another first-round meltdown without a fight. He refused to be denied in Game 6, and now he'll have one more chance to advance in the playoffs for the first time in his career.

Playing with the desperation of a man on the brink of elimination, McGrady had 37 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists to help host Houston avoid elimination.

The first-round series is tied at 3, with Game 7 in Dallas on Saturday. The winner will face top-seeded Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals.

Reserve Mike James scored 22 points and Jon Barry scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter for the Rockets, who have been bounced in the opening round in their last three playoff appearances. Houston last won a series in 1997, when the lineup featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley.

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