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Rondo, Perkins, Pierce Big enough 3 for Celtics

PAUL Pierce made three straight jump shots in the final 77 seconds of overtime as the Boston Celtics held on to beat the Chicago Bulls 106-104 yesterday and take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.

Rajon Rondo scored 28 points with 11 assists and eight rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins had 16 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks for the Celtics. It was the third time in five games the teams have needed overtime, a surprising first-round struggle for the defending NBA champions.

Ben Gordon scored 26 and Joakim Noah had 11 points and 17 rebounds for Chicago, but Brad Miller missed the potential game-tying free throws with 2 seconds left in overtime.

The Bulls return home for Game 6 on Thursday night hoping to extend the series; Game 7, if necessary, would be in Boston on Saturday.

Mavericks 106, Spurs 93

At San Antonio, Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points as Dallas won a playoff series for the first time since 2006, eliminating San Antonio in five games.

It is the first time San Antonio has lost in the opening round since 2000, one year after the Spurs won their first of four NBA titles. San Antonio was the third seed, but throughout the series it was Dallas that clearly looked like the higher-slotted team.

The Mavericks advance to the Western Conference semifinals to play either Denver or New Orleans. The Nuggets lead that series 3-1 and can finish off the Hornets on Wednesday at Denver.

Tim Duncan scored 30 points and Tony Parker had 26 but once again got little help - the story of the series for the two-dimensional Spurs.

Magic 91, 76ers 78

At Orlando, Florida, Dwight Howard had 24 points and a career playoff-high 24 rebounds to power Orlando to a 3-2 series lead over Philadelphia.

Rashard Lewis snapped out of his playoff slump with a series-high 24 points, and Rafer Alston scored 14 for the Magic. It was Howard's fourth career playoff game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.

Andre Iguodala scored 26 points and led a second-half charge that fizzled fast, and Andre Miller added 17 points for Philadelphia.

The Sixers face elimination in Game 6 in the best-of-seven series on Thursday in Philadelphia. A potential Game 7 would be Saturday in Orlando.

Trail Blazers 88, Rockets 77

At Portland, Oregon, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge each scored 25 points as Portland staved off elimination in the playoffs by beating Houston in Game 5.

The Rockets, who have not advanced out of the first round of the playoffs in six tries since 1997, hold a 3-2 advantage in the series going into Thursday night's game back in Houston.

Luis Scola led the Rockets with 21 points. Yao Ming had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Roy, a two-time All-Star and Portland's leading scorer, missed practice on Monday because of flu-like symptoms, while Aldridge didn't practice because of a sore right elbow. Both started Tuesday.


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