Ray Allen found his shooting touch just in time to put the Boston Celtics within one win of returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since the original Big Three.

Allen scored 29 points, hitting a long two-pointer after Detroit came within one point with a minute left, then he and Kevin Garnett each made a pair of free throws down the stretch as the host Celtics beat the Pistons last night, 106-102, to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Garnett scored 33 - his most in the playoffs this year - Kendrick Perkins had 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo added seven points, 13 assists and six rebounds for Boston. The 29 points was also a playoff high for Allen, the usually reliable scorer who had been cold for most of the playoffs.

Game 6 is tomorrow night in Detroit, and with a victory there or on Sunday back in Boston, the Celtics would advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish took them there in 1987.

Chauncey Billups scored 26 and Richard Hamilton had 25 points for Detroit, which has reached the conference finals 6 consecutive years but played for the championship just twice and won once in that span.

Noteworthy

* The Atlanta Hawks, looking for new experienced front-office leadership after ending their playoff drought this season, hired Rick Sund as general manager.

Sund has worked in NBA front offices for more than 30 years, including stints with Milwaukee, Dallas, Detroit and most recently the Seattle SuperSonics.

He spent last year as a consultant for the Sonics after serving as the team's general manager from 2001 to '07.

Sund, 56, will replace Billy Knight, who announced on May 7 he is resigning after 6 years with the team, the last 5 as GM.

* NBA coach of the year Byron Scott and the New Orleans Hornets agreed in principle to a contract extension. Terms were not disclosed.

Scott had said he hoped to get a raise from his current $3.5 million annual salary to a figure closer to what the "top five or six" coaches in the league earn. The highest-paid coach in the NBA is the Los Angeles Lakers' Phil Jackson (about $10.3 million), followed by Golden State's Don Nelson and the New York Knicks' Mike D'Antoni (both around $6 million). *