CHICAGO - Just because it's a classic game doesn't mean you get to win.
That's the only way for the Boston Celtics to look at it now as they head home for a Game 7 with the Chicago Bulls in an already epic series after falling in triple-overtime Thursday night in Chicago, 127-128.
Already undermanned, the Celtics have been pushed to the limit by an upstart Bulls team that's trying to knock out the champs. The series has been physical, it's been dramatic, and it's been long. Those are great things if you're an NBA fan; not what you're looking for as an NBA coach. Doc Rivers told reporters several times in the last week that he's definitely not enjoying this series, but allowed that he might get to step back and admire it long after it's over.
Either way, it's about to end, for better or worse, on Saturday night at the Garden.
So how is it that we're five paragraphs in, and only now are we getting to Ray Allen's historic, 18-for-32, 51-point performance that was at times the only thing that kept the Celtics alive? Amazing happened, that's for sure, so it's probably worth a cut up of black-and-white slow-mo replays and dramatic piano music, but his playoff career-high outing definitely lost a touch of cache when the Celtics ultimately lost the game.
Ray Allen was basically unconscious on Thursday night in Chicago, dropping 51 points from all over the court, but the Celtics came up short and will host Game 7 on Saturday night at the Garden.
"After the game I was thinking about all the plays I missed," Allen said after tying a playoff record by connecting on nine three-pointers. "When you are on the losing end that's what you remember."
After fouling out of Game 5 and playing just 26 minutes, Allen went 58:45 in Game 6, hitting improbable shots from all over the court even though everyone in the building knew he was getting the ball.
Speaking of everyone, all eyes -- and in the United Center, boos -- were focused on Rajon Rondo heading into this game, given his making-the-superstar-leap, triple-double average for the series and an Old Boston Garden-variety hack against Brad Miller that saved Game 5. Bulls Coach Vinny Del Negro said after Game 6 that Rondo had been "carving them up" all series long, and it's hard to argue with that assessment; to date, Rondo has posted 70 assists and committed just 11 turnovers in the series .
Following the assertions from the Chicago camp that his hard foul against Miller at the end of Game 5 was a flagrant one, Rondo was jeered every time he touched the ball, and he may have forever drawn the wrath of the city when he got tangled up with Kirk Hinrich at the end of the first quarter.
With Hinrich having already delivered an elbow at the end of the court, Rondo shucked him when Hinrich was riding him toward the sideline. Rondo grabbed his arm and tossed Hinrich toward the scorer's table just past the Celtics' bench. Hinrich stormed back at Rondo with his forearms out, attempting to bait Rondo into an ejection and possible suspension, a deal the Bulls would take in a heartbeat even if it meant curtains for Hinrich as well.
Rondo was ultimately rung up for a Flagrant 1 (those seated at the press table say ref Joey Crawford was going to hang a Flagrant 2 on him before he reviewed the altercation on video), and Hinrich earned a tech of his own.
While there could have been ejections, Crawford thankfully didn't remove Rondo, the series' most transcendent player. The Celtics point guard responded by dropping 19 dimes in Game 6, and while he never turned over the basketball, he did miss two late free throws that might have salted away the game in regulation when the C's were up 99-91 and presumably thinking about the Orlando Magic.
The Bulls fought back, cutting the lead to 101-96, and then Miller canned a wide-open three and hit a stumbling-through-the-lane layup that tied the game at 101-101.
"I just thought we waited for the time to run out instead of snatching the victory from them," Pierce said. "All of the sudden, you looked up and the game was tied up. When you have a team on the ropes like that and you're on the road, you've got to go and take it from them."
So yeah, the game should have never gotten to overtime. But then again, Boston twice fell behind by double digits, once in each half, and each time the Bulls crumbled by getting jumpshot happy as the C's chipped away at the lead, so they could have easily been blown out in regulation, too. The Celtics staged an 18-0 run beginning at the 8:50 mark of the fourth when they trailed 91-81, running the score to 99-91, Celtics, after Pierce knocked down a step-back jumper and a three on back-to-back possessions.
Pierce, who earlier took several stitches underneath his nose after catching a stray finger to the nostrils after a rebound, missed shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime that would have won the game.
"We definitely had our opportunities in the last couple of minutes. We should have been a lot more aggressive instead of just waiting for the time to run out," Pierce said.
Allen had 29 points by halftime, going 10-for-15 in the first 24 minutes, and his sharp-shooting kept the C's within striking distance. At the end of regulation, Allen had 44, and he would later tie the game in the second overtime with an off-balance three that sent the game to the third extra session.
In a series that's had five sensational games and one blowout, Game 6 was perhaps the best of the bunch. The Celtics just ended up on the business end of the result.
By one point.
You almost get the sense that if the NBA would allow it, this series could go another five games, and the teams might play another five overtimes as well.
Best of 11 series? Maybe not.
Best series of all-time? Maybe so.