Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Ray Allen poured in 23 points, and the Boston Celtics moved into the second round of the playoffs with a 109-99 win over the Chicago Bulls, ending their grueling seven-game Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
With the exception of Boston's 21-point victory in Game 3, every other contest until Saturday had been decided by three points or less with four of them going to overtime. The teams had played a total of seven extra sessions, including the incredible 128-127 Chicago win in triple-OT on Thursday.
The Celtics ended the series in regulation, thanks mostly to finishing the second quarter on a 22-2 spurt, holding the Bulls without a field goal for the final eight minutes, en route to a 52-39 halftime lead.
The defending NBA champions were pushed to seven games twice in the playoffs last year, including in the first-round against Atlanta. This time, the second-seeded Celtics advanced to play third-seeded Orlando in the conference semifinals. Game 1 is Monday at 8 p.m. (et) in Boston.
Allen, coming off a 51-point performance, made 6-of-14 shots from the field and nailed all nine of his free throws. Paul Pierce added 20 points and nine rebounds, while Eddie House came off the bench for 16 points, making all four of his three-point shots. Glen Davis had 15 points, and Kendrick Perkins chipped in 14 points and 13 boards. Rajon Rondo ended with 11 assists.
"Tough, definitely the toughest one that I've been a part of," Allen said of the series. "They gave us everything that we could handle. I told Rondo after the game, I said that 'They were probably the toughest match up that we've had you know, if I go back to even last year, because they have guys that, one, two, three, are capable of scoring 40 a night and it definitely put a crunch on our defense.'"
The Celtics played the entire series without All-Star power forward Kevin Garnett, who is expected to be out for the remainder of the playoffs with a knee injury.
"The way we fought as a team, we never gave up," said Gordon. "Every game we had a chance we had to win except for Game 3, we kind of got blown out. Every game we had our chances to win. I honestly believe that we could've won this series but we didn't. I'm just happy with the way everybody performed."
Hinrich hit a jumper to bring Chicago within 81-78 just over two minutes into the fourth, but the outside shooting of House made a big difference for Boston. He countered with a three-pointer, but was given a technical foul for taunting Chicago's bench.
Gordon's two foul shots midway through the fourth had the Bulls within 89-86, but Perkins put in a layup, and then hit two foul shots with less than three minutes remaining.
Gordon made two more free throws, and tried to block House's three-pointer at the other end, but flew by him and the left corner shot went in, providing Boston with a 96-88 lead with 2 1/2 minutes remaining, essentially sealing Chicago's fate.
The Bulls didn't get closer than five points the rest of the way.
"I think whenever you can go through an experience like this I think it's only going to make you better in a lot of ways," said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. "Understand the importance of getting better in certain areas, know where we need to improve, know how the level of physicality goes up, know how playoff basketball is played, and we have a lot of young guys that really went through it the first time. I think that's a huge advantage and hopefully in the future we will use this experience to an advantage."
The Bulls started the game on a 9-2 spurt, but couldn't lead by more than eight in the period. Rose, who came up with the game-saving block on Rondo in the final seconds of Thursday's game, denied Boston's Brian Scalabrine on a dunk try with just over four minutes left in the first.
Pierce's jumper had Boston within 19-18 before the Bulls came back with a 9-2 spurt. Scalabrine's three-pointer represented the final bucket of the quarter, bringing Boston within 28-23.
Chicago led by as many as 10 early in the second. Tyrus Thomas hit a jumper with eight minutes left for a 37-30 lead, but that was Chicago's final field goal of the half. The Celtics responded with the ensuing 11 points. House nailed a three-pointer to give the hosts the 39-37 lead, and House added another three-ball before Pierce capped the burst with a driving layup inside five minutes left in the half.
Mikki Moore added a tip-in with nearly 1 1/2 minutes remaining and Rondo notched his first basket of the half, a layup with 28.1 seconds left, providing the 13-point margin at the intermission.
"Well, we turned into the Celtics again," said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "Really. We started playing defense, getting stops. Paul knows, we talked about it before the game: multiple stops equals multiple scores. We did it in stretches during the series but never a full game except for Game 3."
The Bulls shot 3-of-14 in the second quarter, compared to 11-of-22 for Boston.
Salmons hit a jumper to cut Chicago's deficit to 67-61 with just over three minutes remaining in the third, but Boston widened the gap to 76-65 after a Davis three-point play. The Bulls continued the back-and-forth battle, pulling within 78-72 to begin the fourth.
"I think we tired them out, we just ran in transition," said Allen. "Defensively, they got the spots and we just put hands in their face and we didn't foul as much and send them to the free throw line, but consistently we made them take tougher shots and they didn't make them, a lot of those shots they've been hitting all season."
Game Notes: The Celtics and Magic split four meetings during the regular season. Their only meeting in the playoffs came in 1995 when Orlando won in the first round...The Celtics have never lost (4-0) a playoff series to the Bulls. Before this year, Boston hadn't even lost a postseason game to Chicago...The Bulls shot 39 percent from the field.