Wednesday, May 21, 2008
It was Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals last night. The Detroit Pistons have been to the Eastern Conference Finals for the past six years and the Boston Celtics are here after being the worst team in the NBA last year. Last year about this time the Celtics organization was praying for one of the top two picks in the 2007 NBA Draft to save their franchise from what seemed liked several more years of basketball oblivion. What a difference a year makes, huh?
The Boston Celtics were just coming off of a draining Game 7 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a hard fought contest that featured LeBron James going Super Saiyan on the C's for 45 points. Luckily, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett delivered the final Kamehameha Wave to escape with the game and series. The Detroit Pistons were resting up and waiting for their next opponent after dispatching the Orlando Magic in just 5 games (3 played without Chauncey Billups).
The Celtics had just played in a grueling game a few days ago and Chauncey Billups was ready to go after a hamstring injury and the Pistons were all rested and ready to play. The ball was thrown up at halfcourt last night and the Celtics immediately went on the attack jumping out to an 8-0 lead. The Pistons slowed down the pace and got back into the game halfway through the quarter. Then the Celtics pulled away to gain a 1st quarter lead behind Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce's scoring and Kendrick Perkins rebounding and defense.
In the 2nd quarter, the Celtics got into the penalty early. This allowed the Pistons to hang in the game by constantly going to the free throw line. Even though the Celtics were outrebounding and shooting a much better percentage from the floor than the Pistons the best they could manage at haltime was a 41-40 lead.
In the 3rd quarter, the Celtics went crazier than Tracy Morgan after a couple of tall boys. They pressed the tempo, tightened up their team defense and continued to take the ball to the hole. They got the Pistons on their heels and put them in the penalty early, The Celtics converted 11 of 13 free throws in the 3rd quarter and established their dominance in the paint. By the time the 3rd quarter was over the Celtics had a 12 point lead and had outscored the Pistons 28-17 in the frame.
The Celtics managed to hold down Rasheed Wallace (11 pts 5 reb 4 ast) and Rip Hamilton was in foul trouble for much of the contest (15 pts 6reb). The two bright spots on the Pistons squad was the play of Antonio McDyess (14 pts 11 reb) and several clutch baskets by Tayshaun Prince (16 pts). Chauncey Billups was completely dominated by Rajon Rondo (11 pts 7 ast 5 stl) and he only managed a meager 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers in 31 total minutes. He ended the night at -18.
Kevin Garnett (26 pts 9 reb 4 ast 2 blk) dominated his matchup with Rasheed Wallace and he and Kendrick "The Hulk" Perkins (5 pts 10 reb) owned the paint yet again. Paul Pierce (22 pts 6 reb 6 ast) returned to his regular world beating self and Ray Allen still hasn't had his breakout game yet (9 pts 4 ast 2 stl) as he didn't hit a single jump shot last night.
The Celtics shot 52% (36-69) as a team and held the Pistons to 42% (28-66). Even though the Pistons had a +5 advantage at the free throw line (19-27 to the C's 14-21) and personal fouls were almost even (BOS 21 DET 20) the Celtics turned the ball over less (DET 13 BOS 10) and had more steals (BOS 10 DET 7).
The rebounds were even for both teams (BOS 37 DET 37) but the Celtics aggressiveness on both sides of the court and contributions from P.J. Brown, Leon Powe, Eddie House and James Posey helped to make the difference as the Boston Celtics came away with an 88-79 victory and win in The Jungle for the 9th straight time in the NBA Playoffs to take a 1-0 series lead in this best of seven series.
Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals @ TD Banknorth Garden in Boston
Thursday, May 22, 2008 @ 8:30 pm EST on ESPN
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (2) Detroit Pistons
BOS leads 1-0 (best of 7)