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Rivers doesn’t want a 7-game series

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Boston coach Doc Rivers has the Celtics on the verge of returning to the NBA Finals after taking a 3-2 Eastern Conference Finals lead on Detroit.

Boston coach Doc Rivers has the Celtics on the verge of returning to the NBA Finals after taking a 3-2 Eastern Conference Finals lead on Detroit.

Winslow Townson, Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Flip Saunders doesn't sound like a coach worried about his future.

The Boston Celtics won Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, pushing the Detroit Pistons to the brink of elimination and a possible shake-up.

Saunders has already outlasted his predecessors, Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle, both of whom lasted just two years.

But if Detroit loses in the conference finals for a third straight season, there's a chance Saunders won't be back for a fourth year.

The Pistons' nucleus, which has been together since winning a title in 2004, might also get broken up with another loss.

Saunders shrugged off the pressure on him going into a win-or-go-home matchup Friday night at home, saying he's excited about the opportunity.

"I really believe if we get Game 6, that we're going to have a good opportunity in Game 7," Saunders said Thursday.

If Boston falls to 0-3 in Game 6s this postseason, it will host its third Game 7 on Sunday night.

Paul Pierce said the last thing he and the Celtics are thinking about is being tired from their grueling run.

"The only thing on my mind is getting a win, getting a step closer to being in the NBA finals," Pierce said after helping Boston beat Detroit 106-102 Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the series. "I don't think fatigue is going to be a factor for the rest of this series. The guys physically for the most part are feeling good, and it's all about mental toughness right now."

Even though the Celtics have the cushion of another home game, coach Doc Rivers wants his team to play with a sense of urgency.

"We don't want to go to a Game 7," Rivers said. "We want to win this now if we can. They're not going to let us win it. We're going to have to come in and take it.

"They've been in situations before. They're a mentally tough team, and we're going to have to play the game of our lives to go up there and win. But I think we're capable of doing that."

The Pistons' past two seasons under Saunders have ended on the road in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat.

The two previous years, under Brown, Detroit didn't have home-court advantage when it advanced past the Indiana Pacers to win the NBA title in 2004 and Miami the next year before coming up just short of repeating against the San Antonio Spurs.

Less than a day after Detroit's divorce with Brown was completed with a $7 million severance package, Saunders agreed to a four-year contract worth up to $26 million.

Rivers said it would be "a shame" if Saunders lost his job this offseason.

"He's one of the best coaches in our league," Rivers said.

That description also fits Brown and Carlisle, but both were not welcomed back for a third season with the Pistons despite having success.

Saunders inherited a job with pluses, including championship-caliber players, and minuses such as strong-minded veterans, such as Rasheed Wallace, who respected and liked Brown.

Chris Webber, who played for Saunders last season, seemed to add to the perception that the Pistons had tuned out their coach earlier this postseason.

"No disrespect to Flip, but it doesn't matter what Flip says," Webber said on TV at halftime of Game 4 of the Detroit-Philadelphia series. "They come from a coach like Larry Brown, they look at him like he's the epitome of basketball."

Saunders dismissed Webber's comments, and the former All-Star center later tried to clarify his thoughts on Saunders in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

"All I was saying was that the Pistons are the most veteran team besides San Antonio and both of those teams have leaders in the locker room," Webber wrote to the AP. "I like Flip and think he's a good coach. I predicted the Pistons to win it all and you can't do that with a bad coach."

Rivers has had his share of critics this season, too, despite leading the NBA in regular-season wins, helping the Celtics reach the conference finals for the first time since 2002 and pulling within a win of their first NBA finals appearance since 1987.

"I've always laughed at some of the criticism," Rivers said. "I was joking with someone the other day, and I told them, just answer me this: 'Why would someone listen to a guy that hasn't played, hasn't coached? Some of the guys have never even been reporters — they're bloggers.'

"Who's the fool, me or the people listening?"

Another layer to Saunders' story was added in Boston's win Wednesday night when reserve Lindsey Hunter reacted demonstratively to getting replaced late in the game by Chauncey Billups.

"It's nothing personal," Hunter insisted. "If I offended somebody, I apologize."

No apology needed.

"As coaches, we make decisions that players question, you guys question, everybody questions," Saunders told reporters. "As it plays out, you find out if it's good or bad or whatever."

The Pistons hope Rasheed Wallace can keep his emotions in check because if he's called for one more technical, he will be suspended for Game 7 if it is necessary.

"Usually when he gets this close in those types of situations, he knows to try to tone it down a little," Saunders said. "I'll talk to him."

The NBA fined Wallace $25,000 for his expletive-laced rant targeting Game 5 officials Mike Callahan and Kenny Mauer.

"The cats are flopping all over the floor and they're calling that," Wallace told reporters after Game 5. "That ain't basketball out there. It's all entertainment. You all should know that."

Saunders also seemed to want the league to take a look at Pierce's bear-hug foul against Billups.

"I told the referee when I was standing there, 'We've got New England Patriots that are here. (Teddy) Bruschi had a tackle like that in the Super Bowl,"' Saunders recalled. "So I don't think that's allowed in basketball."