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EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Celtics apply the finishing move

Boston wins for the second time on Detroit's home court and gets matchup with Lakers in NBA Finals.

May 31, 2008|From the Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce walked together, sporting black hats with green four-leaf clovers, and tried to soak up the moment when both stars became conference champions for the first time.

"My heart is beating faster," Pierce said.

Someone asked Garnett if he needed some water.

"I'm good," Garnett said.

Garnett and the rest of the Big Three certainly are.

Pierce scored 27 points, Ray Allen had 17 and Garnett scored 16 to lift the Boston Celtics to an 89-81 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston got past an old nemesis to set up a matchup with another rival.

The Celtics, who locked up with Detroit many times in the 1980s, will now rekindle another classic series in the NBA Finals against the Lakers.

"It's kind of surreal," Garnett said. "Probably hasn't even hit me yet because we haven't slept in about four days, going on five days now. Going to the Finals, I'm just hoping to get some sleep."

After playing two Game 7s, the Celtics will get a needed break before playing host to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Thursday night.

"We're emotionally drained," Garnett said.

The Celtics are in the NBA Finals for the first time since losing to the Lakers in 1987, the third meeting in a four-year span.

The Pistons blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost in Game 6 of the conference finals for the third year in a row. They were eliminated on their home court for the first time during a six-year run that included a trip to the conference finals each year and the 2004 title.

"This is really tough," said Chauncey Billups, who scored a playoff-high 29 points. "We had it, and we didn't get over the hump."

Boston entered the series without a road victory in the postseason, then beat Detroit on its home court twice to win the grueling series. The NBA's top-seeded team also rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit for the first time in seven chances during the playoffs.

"It was probably the best thing, because now we can say we have gone through some stuff and we're still standing," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said.

The loss might lead to changes on a Detroit team that has looked the same on the court for four seasons.

Billups played well and Richard Hamilton scored 21 despite an injured elbow, but the rest of their teammates had lackluster efforts -- especially Rasheed Wallace.

At one point Billups had 21 points, matching the total for the rest of the team.

Wallace scored only four points on two-for-12 shooting and had three turnovers in what might have been his last game as a Piston and could have been Flip Saunders' last as Detroit's coach. President of basketball operations Joe Dumars probably will make some moves.

"I'm sure that's something Joe and I will sit down and evaluate," Saunders said.

Wallace made three trips to his locker -- with reporters surrounding it -- before finally saying something to the media without taking questions.

"That's the end, man," Wallace said.

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NBA playoffs

Best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals

BOSTON VS. DETROIT

Boston wins series, 4-2

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Game 1: at Boston 88, Detroit 79

Game 2: Detroit 103, at Boston 97

Game 3: Boston 94, at Detroit 80

Game 4: at Detroit 94, Boston 75

Game 5: at Boston 106, Detroit 102

Game 6: Boston 89, at Detroit 81

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