Leading by eight after an 18-point run in the fourth quarter, the Boston Celtics looked like they were finally ready to move past the Chicago Bulls.
Instead, a classic first-round series took its most dramatic turn and is headed for a Game 7 that seems so fitting. The way things have been going, overtime seems almost a certainty.
Derrick Rose scored 28 points and blocked Rajon Rondo's potential game-winner, John Salmons scored 35, and the Bulls beat the defending champions 128-127 in triple overtime Thursday night to even the first-round series.
Ray Allen scored a career playoff-high 51 points for the Celtics, but it's back to Boston for Game 7 on Saturday night after another classic in a series that had already seen its share.
"We're starting to see a pattern with these two clubs and it's crazy," Boston's Paul Pierce said. "It's good for the fans. It's good for the viewers. But we certainly don't like it."
A record three of the first five games went to overtime, including a Game 4 that went two extra periods. Another came down to the wire in regulation, but this easily trumped them all.
Rondo penetrated and pulled up on the left block with 8 seconds left and turned, only to be rejected by Rose. The rookie of the year then missed two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining, before Rondo launched a harmless heave from beyond midcourt.
"This series is a lot of fun for the fans, the people of Chicago, the people of Boston," said the Bulls' Joakim Noah, who made the go-ahead three-point play after a steal.
"It's a lot of fun for us, too, playing in environments like this on the big stage," he continued. "It's special to be part of this, and I know that it's a series people will be talking about for a long time."
Rose added: "It's crazy, but you got to love it."
Things might be different with a healthy Kevin Garnett, but without him, the Celtics are headed for Game 7.
"It's unbelievable," Boston's Kendrick Perkins said. "Shot after shot, tough make after tough make. It's a tough series. They're a young team playing with a lot of confidence."
Noah's three-point play made it 126-123 with 35.5 seconds remaining. Eddie House quickly answered with a corner jumper to pull the Celtics within one, but Brad Miller, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds, hit two free throws to get the lead back to three with 28 seconds left.
Glen Davis added 23 points and Pierce had 22, while Rondo had eight points, 19 assists and nine rebounds.
Allen finished three points shy of John Havlicek's club playoff record and tied the NBA playoff mark with nine 3-pointers.
"It's very bittersweet," Allen said. "There's nothing to really talk about anymore. We lost and we had the agony that it wasn't enough."
Magic 114, 76ers 89
At Philadelphia, the Magic — playing without suspended star Dwight Howard and injured guard Courtney Lee — advanced to the second round with a win in Game 6.
Howard, who was suspended one game by the NBA for his elbow on Sixers center Samuel Dalembert in Game 5, will return when the Magic play the winner of the Boston-Chicago series.
Rashard Lewis scored 29 points and Rafer Alston had 21 to help the Magic win on the road for the second time this series. The Magic's decisive run came early when they made 12 of their first 19 shots.
Andre Miller scored 24 points for the Sixers, who were eliminated in the first round for the second straight season.
Rockets 92, Trail Blazers 76
At Houston, Ron Artest scored 27 points, Yao Ming had 17 points and 10 rebounds and the Rockets reached the second round for the first time since 1997 with a win in Game 6.
The Rockets won for the first time in their last seven first-round series. They lost Game 6s the last two seasons, both to Utah.
Houston plays the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers beginning Monday night at the Staples Center.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and Brandon Roy had 22 for the Blazers, who were making their first playoff appearance since 2003.