By Matt Langone
BOSTON — Apparently, Detroit's Antonio McDyess isn't the only role-playing big man with something to say in the Eastern Conference finals.
Last night, Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins also entered the discussion.
After watching McDyess scorch Boston for a surprising 21 points and 16 rebounds the previous game, Perkins took it upon himself to deliver a spark in last night's pivotal Game 5.
The 6-foot-10 Perkins erupted for career playoff highs of 18 points, 16 rebounds and 39 minutes played to help the Celtics to a hard-fought 106-102 victory.
Boston, which got only three points off the bench, now holds momentum in the best-of-seven series (for now) with a 3-2 lead. The series shifts back to Detroit for Game 6 tomorrow (8:30 p.m.). A potential Game 7 would be held back at the Garden Sunday (time TBA).
Perkins, who is normally the fifth option offensively, was Boston's go-to-guy in the first quarter. Whether or not that was by design is debatable.
Nevertheless, The 23-year-old came out aggressive and took six shots in the quarter (the most by a Boston player) and made four of them. He finished the frame with eight points and eight rebounds in the full 12 minutes as the teams were tied up at 23-23.
The center's production opened up the floor for Kevin Garnett (a game-high 33 points) in the second quarter as the All-Star forward dropped in 11 points in the frame to help give the Celtics some separation at the half with a 52-46 lead.
Perkins took a double-double into the locker room with 12 points and 13 rebounds. More impressively, he had outrebounded the entire Detroit team at the break (13-11).
While the performance was arguably the best of Perkins' career offensively, it was every bit as good defensively.
He earned revenge on McDyess by holding the Pistons' forward/center to just four points and five rebounds for the game. Perkins also helped send McDyess into foul trouble before he fouled out with 4:04 to play.
It was a complete turnaround for Perkins, who has often been plagued by foul trouble himself.
The Celtics led by 13 points (84-71) going into the fourth quarter after leading by as many as 17 points in the third quarter.
But the Pistons posted a frantic comeback led by the starting backcourt of Richard Hamilton (25 points) and Chauncey Billups (26 points), and a breakout game from forward Rasheed Wallace (18 points on six 3-pointers).
However, free throws by Ray Allen, who had his best game of the postseason with 29 points and five 3-pointers, and Garnett iced the game late for Boston.
Thanks in large part to the work that Perkins put in early and often.
Ironically, Perkins could have been the goat as Detroit cut the lead to 1 late, helped in part by a silly technical by the Boston big man.
3-pointers start to fall
The 3-point shooting left something to be desired until last night.
"It's because of better defenses," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers before the game. "I think guys are focusing on running you off the 3-point shot and making you take contested twos."
However, the 3-pointers fell at a sizzling rate last night as Boston drilled 8 of 15 and Detroit hit 11 of 21. Rasheed Wallace hit six for the Pistons and Ray Allen had five for the C's.
Bruschi gets an assist
New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi was in attendance last night, and picked up an assist.
The 34-year-old came onto the court to a rousing ovation and held the basketball straight up in the air, while Celtics mascot Lucky jumped off a trampoline, grabbed the ball and completed a dunk in between the first and second quarters.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick also was courtside.
Fouls minimize Maxiell
The Pistons were hurt in the second quarter, when reserve forward Jason Maxiell went to the bench with three fouls after just six minutes of action.
The high-flying 6-foot-7 Maxiell had been wreaking havoc on the Celtics before his foul trouble. He either converted, or was fouled in the act of shooting, on three ally-oops in the second quarter and scored six quick points before going to the bench with 9:21 left in the half. At that point, the Pistons led 31-25.
Maxiell finished the game with just the six points in 11 minutes.