BOSTON, May 3 (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce's
latest playoff masterpiece
certainly evoked memories of the Boston Celtics' glorious past.
Pierce scored 29 of his playoff career-high 46 points in the
first half and decisively outdueled Allen Iverson
as the Celtics
routed the Philadelphia 76ers, 120-87, in Game Five of their
Eastern Conference first-round series.
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Pierce led Boston to its first postseason series win since 1992
by making 10-of-13 shots in the first half. He fell one point
short of Boston's franchise record for points in a half -- a
mark held by John Havlicek and Larry Bird.
"I (was in a) groove and the guys did an extra good job of
finding me in situations to put the ball in the hole," Pierce
said. "We shared the basketball, that was the key. We don't mind
passing up shots to get another guy an open shot."
Antoine Walker had a great time helping get the Celtics to the second round.|
Jesse D. Garrabrant
The Celtics swingman had 10 points in a 15-4 run in the second
quarter that gave Boston the lead for good, 54-43, with 3:20
left in the half. He bookended the spurt with 3-pointers.
Iverson, the reigning league MVP, scored 20 of his 31 points in
the first half but simply could not keep up with Pierce's torrid
pace as the eliminated the defending Eastern Conference
champions. Iverson made 11-of-24 shots but no other 76er had
more than four baskets.
"That's the way this thing goes," Iverson said. "You play every
game like its your last but sometimes that's just not enough and
that was the case tonight."
A 3-pointer by Iverson at the buzzer pulled Philadelphia within
77-67 after three quarters. But Boston used a 19-4 spurt to
build a 103-79 cushion with just under five minutes left.
The Celtics continued to pour it on and made a playoff-record
nine of their 19 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Boston
outscored Philadelphia, 43-20 in the fourth and continued to
shoot 3-pointers even with the outcome already decided.
"It just seemed like a snowball effect for us because they put
in their reserves and they were hitting threes," Sixers forward
said. "So it's just one of those nights."
Pierce finished 16-of-25 from the floor, including a remarkable
8-of-10 from beyond the arc. It capped a terrific series in
which he had three triple-doubles and made several clutch shots
down the stretch to win Game Two. He averaged 29.6 points and
8.6 rebounds in the five games.
"He had a great game," Iverson said. "That's what stars do. Big
players play big all the time."
Boston made 19-of-29 from the arc, which was easily a franchise
record and also the most ever made against the 76ers in a
playoff game. Eric Williams
made all three attempts while
was 4-of-9 from beyond the arc.
"Everybody kind of just fed off of that and the 3-point barrage
was on," Pierce said. "Those are the looks that we want."
It was the first decisive game at the FleetCenter and but Boston
did its best to create an atmosphere similar to the old Boston
Garden. Former greats such as Tommy Heinsohn, JoJo White and
Cedric Maxwell were on hand and Red Auerbach was present with a
green cane, similar to the one on the Celtics' symbol.
"It was a wonderful experience to be able to, in the last two
minutes, have the game in hand and kind of soak up the
atmosphere," said Boston coach Jim O'Brien, a Philadelphia
native who grew up rooting against the Celtics. "We played one
heck of a basketball game."
Pierce and Iverson immediately asserted themselves as the first
half brought back memories of Bird dueling with Dominique
Wilkins and Michael Jordan
. Pierce scored 14 in the first
quarter and Iverson had 11 as Boston grabbed a 27-22 lead.
The pair continued to square off in the second quarter but
Pierce again was more productive. He received plenty of help
throughout the game from Walker, who finished with 26 points and
nine rebounds. Williams made 7-of-10 shots for 17 points.
"We were prepared and focused on this game. We felt like we let
one slip away in Game Four," Walker said. "We wanted to come out
and show the world that we can play at this level. We needed to
take advantage of our home-court advantage."
Iverson received little help as his teammates struggled. Eric
, who played well in the last two contests, made just
2-of-12 shots for six points and only two assists. Dikembe
was the team's second leading scorer with 12 points but
he had only two baskets.
"We had a decided advantage inside and we didn't get anything
done inside," 76ers coach Larry Brown said. "I don't think our
rebounding was a factor at all."
Besides Iverson's play, Philadelphia stayed in the game thanks
to a sizable advantage at the free-throw line, converting
25-of-30. Boston went to the line just 11 times and made nine.
The Celtics shot 54 percent (46-of-85) while Philadelphia
managed to hit just 39 percent (28-of-71) of its shots.
Philadelphia fell to 3-1 in first-round series with Iverson and
also failed to win a road game for just the second time in its
last nine series. The Sixers never have won a playoff series
after losing the first two games and failed to become the
seventh team in NBA history to rally from a 2-0 deficit in a
The Celtics also received a solid floor game from veteran guard
, who notched his first playoff series triumph in
his 11th season. Anderson scored just eight points but had just
one turnover as Boston had a franchise playoff record-low four
for the game.
There is heavy speculation that Brown may step down with the
season complete but the coach did his part to deflect such talk.
"Unless Mr. Snider (Sixers team chairman Ed Snider) doesn't want
me back, I intend to be back," he said.
Boston will visit second-seeded Detroit on Sunday in Game One of
their Eastern Conference semifinal series.