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All beat up and nothing to show for it

04.29.09 at 12:46 am ET

Brad Miller stood in front of his locker following Game 5 much the same way he stood at the free throw line with 2.0 seconds remaining in overtime-dazed and confused.

He had just been raked across the face by Rajon Rondo, who tried desperately to keep Miller from making the game-tying layup after Miller found a wide-0pen seam in the middle of the Celtics defense. From the top of the key to the basket, there was only green paint in the lane — until Rondo showed up at the last moment.

There were two things that had the Bulls livid. No flagrant foul on Rondo and no goaltending on Kendrick Perkins, who clearly hit the rim in attempting to block the shot but no call was made.

“It’s a play we’ve run,” Miller said. “Two or three guys went to bed and I understand why. It just left an opening just a tad.”

The fact that a flagrant wasn’t called was hardly shocking to Miller.

“We’ve got a lot of guys getting head shots this series, I mean a whole lot of them and it hasn’t been a flagrant,” Miller said. “We’ve had to shake off a lot of these high hits they’ve been putting on us.”

Miller tried to focus on the rim, since his two free throws — if he made them both — would bring the Bulls into yet another tie with the Celtics and likely send Game 5 into a second overtime. But the first hit the front iron and clanged off, forcing him to intentionally miss the second.

“That’s a good shot to take to the head,” Miller said. “I haven’t even seen it but I felt it. It’s still no excuse. Second one I tried to miss on purpose but tried not to miss it that bad, though.”

The Celtics wound up beating the Bulls but the Bulls were livid afterward about the lack of a flagrant foul on Rondo.

‘€œYou have to go for the basketball and (Rondo) didn’€™t come near the basketball,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He came right across his face so the ball was extended, it was out, and he came right across.  I thought it was a flagrant, and I thought it was a physical call.  I agree that it is a playoff foul, but you still have to call it, and I’€™m sure that will be addressed and they’€™ll take a look at it.’€

Did Del Negro think of taking Miller out and have the Celtics pick someone to take the free throws?

‘€œNo.  Brad is a good free throw shooter,” the Bulls coach said. “He’€™s getting some stitches in his mouth right now, so I’€™m sure that play will be reviewed, but we executed the play very well, he was wide open, just couldn’€™t convert.  He was bleeding a little bit, but Brad’€™s a tough guy.

“Rondo hit him in the head, but when you are a big guy you never let a guard take you out of the game.  He was fine, he got some stitches. ‘€¦ I have a lot of confidence in Brad, he’€™s a veteran guy, but it really should have gotten to that.  I think we have to watch the film a little bit, and I think once the double technical happened, the game got a lot more physical.”

But if you think Del Negro is using the officials to take his team off the hook, think again.

“We have to attack the basket and make the refs call fouls and things, but the bottom line is that you can’€™t make mistakes and you have to make plays,” Del Negro said. “Whatever it takes, depending on how physical the game is, or how the refs are calling it. ‘€¦  but I told our guys that ‘€˜you’€™re not going to get calls, you have to be physical with the basketball, you have to be strong, you have to execute, set your men up.’€™ ”

The only thing Celtics coach Doc Rivers had to complain about was his team’s defensive lapse that nearly cost them the lead.

‘€œYeah.I’€™m kicking myself because we — again we talked about it (Monday) — we never switch,” Rivers said. “And that was the one guy that we didn’€™t to switch because Perk — we don’€™t want him switching on a guard. And you know, it was a hell of a fake by Brad. That wasn’€™t what they were trying to run. But we did take away the pass to Ben Gordon.And then Brad faked it and got to the basket.It was just a great instinctive play; that may be what they were trying to run, I don’€™t know.”

To Rivers, Rondo’s instincts saved the day again.

“It was a hell of an instinctive play,” Rivers said. “And it was a great foul by Rondo. You always talk about playoff basketball. No lay-ups. Rondo did it on the very last play and it won the game for us.”

Read More: Brad Miller Rajon Rondo, Bulls, Celtics, NBA playoffs
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