- Gene Wojciechowski, Senior Writer
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CHICAGO -- So, NBA commish David Stern, we took a vote and decided this Chicago Bulls-Boston Celtics series deserves better than a best-of-7. We'd like a best of 9 ... 11 ... infinity. Anything but an end.
I don't know if this is the greatest NBA series of all time, but it's the greatest something. At what point do you bronze these games and put them on eBay?
Thursday night it was a 128-127 Bulls win in triple overtime at the United Center. Game 6 was so intense, so compelling and so exhausting that the crowd of 23,430 needed a post-victory IV transfusion -- and they only watched.
"Every game I've been saying this is the best game I've ever played in,'' said the Bulls' John Salmons, who scored 35 points and was on the court longer (59:56 of the 63 total minutes) than anyone else.
Nothing personal, but unless Jesus suits up for the Orlando Magic, there's no way the Eastern Conference semis can be better than this. Four of the six Bulls-Celtics games have gone to overtime, two of them have gone to multiple OTs. There have been 106 lead changes, and that includes the Game 3 Boston blowout when there were zero.
Seriously, I don't know where to start. Ray Allen scores 51 points for the Celtics and it becomes a footnote? Boston's Rajon Rondo wins the Fling-Kirk-Hinrich-Into-The Scorer's-Table competition and it's basically forgotten three quarters and three overtimes later? The Bulls' Ben Gordon plays on one hamstring again and the gutty effort has to stand in a long bathroom line for attention?
"Unbelievable,'' said the Bulls' Joakim Noah. "I feel blessed to be a part of it. This is some special stuff.''
If there is such a thing, Noah made the play of the game. Actually, it was four plays.
With the game tied 123-123, and 38.9 seconds remaining in the third OT, Noah stole a pass by Paul Pierce. (That's one.) He drove about three-quarters of the court ahead of everyone and flushed the jam. (That's two.) He got Pierce to commit his sixth and final foul on the play. (That's three.) And then Noah sank the free throw. (That's four.) The Bulls never trailed again.
Brad Miller had his moments too. His two free throws with 28.3 seconds left kept the Bulls' lead at 3. Two nights earlier, a woozy Miller missed two crucial free throws (one of them intentionally) after Rondo meat-hooked him on a playoff foul late in overtime. This time he stepped to the line and didn't look like he needed a CT scan.
"When I can see straight, it helps a little bit,'' said Miller, 8-of-9 from the field and 5-of-5 on free throws.
And then there's Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, who blocked Rondo's fadeaway, possible game-winning 12-footer with 8.2 seconds remaining. And by the way, Rose scored 28 points to Rondo's 8.
"It's a fun series,'' said Rose. "It's crazy, but you got to love it.''
Love it? I want to give it an engagement ring. I want to honeymoon in Aruba with it. This is a series that absolutely deserves a Game 7.
"You guys still here?'' said Celtics coach Doc Rivers to reporters afterward. "I was going to leave. How many overtimes was it? Honestly, I lost count.''
The defending NBA champions knew the Bulls weren't going to be a gimme playoff putt, but nobody expected a series for the ages. One way or the other, Saturday evening's game in Boston becomes a defining moment for these teams.
For the Celtics, you wonder how many more minutes Rivers can squeeze out of his starters. Boston's bench is shorter than Mini-Me, but at least it's entertaining. For instance, you can keep a running total of how many open shots Stephon Marbury passes up during his brief and mostly useless appearances.
Then there's Rondo, who keeps making friends in Chicago. He could have been called for a flagrant in Game 5. And he could have been tossed from Game 6 after treating Hinrich like his personal hammer throw.
"He just grabbed my arm and threw me away,'' said Hinrich, who got a technical foul for shoving back. And for the record, Hinrich said he didn't think Rondo should have been ejected.
Even more interesting is the rumor, nothing more, that the injured Kevin Garnett might attempt a Game 7 return.
"You must be one of those conspiracy theorists,'' said Allen, when asked to divulge any secret Garnett-will-play scenarios.
Allen has acted in movies, but he seemed to play it straight on the possibility of a Garnett return. He said Garnett is "anxious,'' but wouldn't you be if you had to watch Marbury?
Nope, all Allen knows is that Garnett spends his game on the bench in street clothes, "which I don't like.''
Of course, the Bulls have their own issues. Rose still commits too many turnovers, but it feels like nitpicking when you're talking about the rookie of the year. Gordon shot 4-of-14, but that happens when only one of your legs fully works. And the Bulls have a habit of blowing double-digit leads.
It would also help if the Bulls could find someone to guard Allen. Easy for me to say. Trying to chase Allen through those screens is like trying to chase a squirrel through tree branches. Allen made 18-of-32 shots, nine of them from the Land of Treys, which tied an all-time playoff record.
"So far, it's one of the best series I've ever been a part of,'' said Allen.
One of the best? Can we see the video of the others?
Anyway, the best thing about this series is that there will be a Game 7.
The worst thing? There won't be a Game 8.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.
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1dEric D. Williams