BOSTON - Ray Allen found his shooting touch last night, just in time to put the Boston Celtics within one win of returning to the NBA Finals for the first time in more than 20 years.
Allen scored 29, hitting a long two-pointer after Detroit came within one point with a minute left. He and Kevin Garnett then each made a pair of free throws down the stretch as the Celtics beat the Detroit Pistons, 106-102, to take a three-games-to-two lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Garnett scored 33 - his most in the playoffs this year. The total of 29 points was also a playoff high for Allen, the usually reliable scorer who had been cold for most of the playoffs.
Also for Boston, Kendrick Perkins had 18 points and 16 rebounds - he outrebounded the Pistons in the first half by himself, 13-11 - and Rajon Rondo added seven points, 13 assists and six rebounds.
Game 6 is tomorrow 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 six consecutive years but played for the championship just twice and won once in that span.
Billups twice drove to the basket in the final 10 seconds, hoping for a foul that wasn't there. He also missed an inconsequential three-pointer at the buzzer.
Boston led by as many as 17 in the third quarter, but Hamilton scored 13 points during a 21-8 Detroit run that made it 92-88 with 4 minutes, 46 seconds left.
Boston led by 100-96 before Rodney Stuckey (13 points) hit a three-pointer with 1:22 left. But, after a time-out with six seconds left on the shot clock, Allen took the inbounds pass and put up a jumper to give Boston a three-point lead.
Dr. J in Jerusalem.
Former 76ers superstar Julius Erving made an unlikely house call - on Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Erving, who is on a goodwill tour of Israel, told Peres in a stop at the presidential mansion in Jerusalem that he considered himself an "ambassador" for Israel.
Erving was in Israel with fellow basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry to raise awareness for the Migdal Ohr youth village for underprivileged children in northern Israel.
Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah accepted a deferred prosecution agreement in his marijuana possession case in Gainesville, Fla., resulting in six months' probation and a $200 fine. Noah also must pay $206 in traffic fines for two citations he received Sunday on the University of Florida campus.
Coach Gregg Popovich has signed a contract extension with San Antonio. Popovich confirmed the extension, which runs through the 2011-12 season, before the Spurs' Game 4 loss Tuesday. Popovich has led the Spurs to four NBA titles.
Coach of the year Byron Scott and the New Orleans Hornets agreed to a contract extension. The Hornets did not release the terms of the contract, but 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 is the Lakers' Phil Jackson, who is paid about $10.3 million.
The Atlanta Hawks hired Rick Sund, 56, as general manager. Sund has worked in NBA front offices for more than 30 years, including stints with Milwaukee, Dallas, Detroit and Seattle.