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Celtics notebook

Ready for a final go-round

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By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / May 1, 2009
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The Celtics-Chicago Bulls first-round series, the longest playoff series in NBA history, will conclude with an 8 p.m. tipoff tomorrow at the TD Banknorth Garden.

No previous playoff series had more than two overtime games before this one. The Bulls' 128-127 triple-overtime win last night means the teams have played seven OT sessions in six games, the average length of the contests 3 hours 7 minutes, ranging from Game 3 (2:23) to Game 6 (3:56).

"How many overtimes was it?" coach Doc Rivers said. "Honestly, I lost count. We had chances."

Five of the six games have been decided by 3 points or less. In the 1981 Celtics-76ers conference final, five games were decided by 3 points or less. The last time four games had 3-point spreads was an Indiana-New York seven-game series in 1995. There had been 85 lead changes and 48 ties through Game 5.

Celtics defeated the Phoenix Suns, 128-126, in a triple-OT game June 4, 1976 in the NBA finals. The Celtics took a 111-105 four-OT win over Syracuse in the 1953 finals.

"I'm just excited that we're still alive," Chicago center Joakim Noah said. "We were really close to death [tonight]. I feel like every game is like that. It's such a roller coaster, but I'm having so much fun out there."

Physical education
Rajon Rondo's foul on Chicago Bulls center Brad Miller in the final seconds of the Celtics' 106-104 overtime win in Game 5 remained a major topic last night.

Asked about the Celtics' physical play, Rivers replied, "We are who we are. We're not going to change our stripes. First of all, I don't know if we are that physical. I played with a team in New York that would laugh at this, I'll tell you that.

"I don't know that we are that physical - we play hard, we're aggressive, we are very serious about trying to win games. But that's about it. I don't know if it is that physical anymore, honestly.

"That's just basketball, obviously. You've got to focus on the basketball. We've been on the receiving end of quite a few ourselves. That's just the way it is."

Miller was hit in the face as he drove to the hoop with 2.0 seconds remaining. At 7 feet and 261 pounds, he has an 11-inch height advantage and 90-pound weight edge over Rondo.

"He's not happy; he has several stitches in his mouth," Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said of Miller. "He's a tough, veteran guy. We need him to play well, and I expect him to play well.

"[The NBA] said it wasn't a flagrant. Both teams have put in different complaints. You have to play the game. The refs are going to determine how they are going to call things, and you have to adapt to that and play well.

"You hope it is not different [the standard for calling fouls at the end of games]. You hope there is consistency. But in saying that, every refereeing crew and every referee is different in his approach. The rules are stated. As long as they are consistent. But if they are not, then those are things you have to learn as a player and incorporate the physicality of the game at that particular time.

"The refs are going to make human errors; it is part of the game. The aggressive team usually gets the calls, and we need to stay aggressive."

Tickets on sale today
Tickets for tomorrow night's Game 7 will go on sale today at 11 a.m. They will be available at TD Banknorth Garden box office, on Celtics.com, or by calling 1-800-462-2849. The limit is four tickets per customer . . . Rondo averaged 24.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 10.2 assists, and 3.2 steals in the first five games.

Globe correspondent Daniel I. Dorfman contributed to this report.

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