- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 11, 2002

BOSTON A game in which neither team could score was decided on a shot that didn't count.

Jerry Stackhouse banked in a 3-pointer a split-second after the final buzzer, and the Boston Celtics held on to beat the Detroit Pistons 66-64 last night for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.

With or without Stackhouse's shot replays confirmed that the ball left his hand too late it was the lowest-scoring game in the NBA playoffs since the shot clock was added in 1955. The 130 combined points was far below the previous low of 142 registered three times, twice in 2000.

"It was ugly. It was a grind-it-out, tough-it-out game," said Paul Pierce, who scored six of his 19 points in the final 1:48. "We escaped by the hairs of our chinny chin chins."

But Celtics coach Jim O'Brien didn't care what the game looked like.

"It's not a dance theater. If you get a 'W,' you go home with a big grin on your face," he said. "As long as I'm paid to win basketball games, I'll take them any way I can get them."

Pierce hit two free throws with 5.9 seconds left to give Boston a 66-62 lead. But Kenny Anderson fouled Chucky Atkins while he was shooting a harmless 3-pointer; Atkins hit two free throws with 2.8 seconds left and missed the third on purpose.

Pierce bounced the rebound high off the floor, and Stackhouse grabbed it beyond the arc and put it up. The referees waved the shot off as the ball was in the air, and replays confirmed it was still in Stackhouse's hands as the red light went off behind the basket.

"Chucky was able to make the first two and miss in a way that gave us a chance," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "Unfortunately, it was like one of those ground balls that bounces off home plate. It just bounced too high in the air, which ate up the clock."

But it was no accident.

Pierce said he knew he could kill the final few seconds with a high bounce. The team has never discussed such a strategy, but O'Brien gave Pierce a pointer in case it comes up again.

"I told him, 'Next time, bounce it so it hits the rafters," O'Brien said. "If it was about six inches lower, I would be crying right now."

Antoine Walker had 16 points and eight rebounds, hitting a layup on a pass from Pierce to give the Celtics a 58-56 lead with 2:33 left. Pierce followed with a layup to make it a four-point game.

Ben Wallace, who had 21 rebounds and 12 points, dunked at the other end, then Anderson hit two free throws to give Boston a 64-60 lead. Anderson had eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.

The Pistons' physical play gave them the reputation as the NBA's Bad Boys while winning consecutive titles in 1989-90. But this wasn't banging as much as clanging: the teams' couldn't shoot, each hitting just 35 percent of their shots.

And they were worse than that from 3-point range, shooting a combined 4-for-39. Boston was 2-for-19; Detroit was 2-for-20.

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