Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Closer Like Kyra Sedgwick AKA 12 Down, 4 To Go

The Boston Celtics held serve at home and pushed the Pistons backs to the wall for the first time in the postseason. The Pistons were at home and the Celtics only managed to win one game on the road in the playoffs (Game 3) so they were 1-7 on the road. On top of that, the Pistons were 5-0 after losses in the postseason as well.

Most NBA experts and analysts were convinced that Detroit was going to win Game 6 and possibly drop Game 7 back in The Jungle on Sunday. The Celtics saw the Lakers come from behind and finish off the Spurs so they had it in their minds that last night was the night for the Pistons to get got. They needed to be taken off of here. In order to be seen as serious contenders for the 2008 NBA Championship it was important that they closed out the Pistons on the road. The place is here, the time is now they thought to themselves.

Rip Hamilton was ready to go. The Palace was rocking, the rafters were packed with 22,076 folks screaming their heads off. 44,152 eyes were going to either witness the Detroit Pistons save their playoff lives or the Boston Celtics finally pull the proverbial plug on the life support machine. The ball was jumped up and both squads were ready to get it in. Would this be the last time the fans in the D would hear Mason holler "DEEEEETROIT BASKETBAAAAAAAAAL!!!!" and see pyrotechnics and drummers? The C's sure hoped so.

The Celtics were aggressive to start the game and Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett all got early buckets to keep the Pistons on their heels. It because obvious that nothing was wrong with Rip Hamilton or Chauncey Billups. Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins had trouble getting involved in the game and Kevin Garnett's shots weren't falling early.

Kevin Garnett got into early foul trouble and Rajon Rondo seemed to have trouble keep Chauncey Billups in front of him as he got into the paint repeatedly. Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace both struggled mightily from the floor but the Celtics kept fouling the Pistons and sending them to the line. The first quarter ended Boston 24 Detroit 21.

The 2nd quarter was rough going as the play got more physical and the defensive pressure became more intense. The Detroit Pistons began putting together a run and made their push to take the lead but the Celtics fought back and neither team could consistently put the ball in the basket leading to a hard fought but low scoring quarter of play. The game was turning ugly than Clint Howard's baby pictures.

Ray Allen made the lead 29-23 on a well timed long ball but Sam Cassell was once again proving to be ineffective on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. After the Pistons scored the Celtics quickly moved the ball down the court and Ray Allen took a pass and drove. When he was double teamed, he quickly kicked the ball out to a wide open James Posey who was waiting on the ball. Swish! The Celtics went up 32-25.

The tide began to turn when the Celtics failed to score again with the 7 point lead and Rip Hamilton hit a big three pointer from the top corner when it bounced twice on the rim and fell in. Kevin Garnett came in off the bench but the C's still failed to score. After what seemed like an eternity on the other end of the court, the Pistons got a huge offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to a wide open Chauncey Billups for three. Thwap! The lead was down to 1 point. BOS 32 DET 31.

The lead was 34-33 in favor Boston before Leon Powe came in and got a huge offensive board and putback with the foul. Powe hit the free throw to put the Celtics up 37-33. The rest of the half was pretty much a free throw exhibition only stopped by a Paul Pierce drive to the hoop to put the C's back up 39-35. The score at halftime: BOS 40 DET 37.

Both teams knew that this was the time to come out with energy and establish dominance once and for all. This game was a quagmire and now someone needed to move the ball, get easy shots going to the hole and most importantly get stops and turn the other team over. The team that answered the bell first and came out of their corner punching was the Celtics.

First Rondo pushed the ball up and hit Kevin Garnett with a pass and he drilled a wide open jumper. Tayshaun Prince hit a contested jumper on the other end. The Celtics came down and found Kevin Garnett wide open behind the three point line. He missed and Rasheed Wallace got the rebound and made an errant outlet pass that Paul Pierce intercepted and took it right to the hole. On the following possession Chauncey Billups smartly penetrated, stopped and ball faked. Once Rajon Rondo left his feet and made contact with him he left the shot go and he banked it in for a three point play

Paul Pierce got the ball on the low block and drew a foul in the act of shooting. He stepped to the line and knocked down both free throws. Chauncey Billups brought the ball down and hit a wide open Rasheed Wallace behind the line. The rebound bounced off of Hulk's hands into Ray Allen's. He looked up and ran 80 feet, kniving through four Piston defenders for the left handed lay up. The Celtics were up 48-42. It was beginning to look like a ball game out there.

The Celtics and Pistons traded baskets until the lead 54-48 in favor of Boston. It was then that the Pistons came alive (no Peter Frampton) and ran off a 16-4 run powered by Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Jason Maxiell and Antonio McDyess. The Pistons lead was 64-58 before one of the weirdest plays in recent memory occurred that became a sort of turning point in the contest.

Following two Rodney Stuckey free throws, the Celtics came down and moved the ball around between Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to get a clean look at a three. Paul Pierce got a wide open look at the top of the key and threw a ball fake as Rip Hamilton came flying at him at full speed. Pierce waited for the contact and once he got hit he let the ball fly. All net. The audience thought Paul Pierce had gotten an obvious 4 point play initiated. The 3 pointer was even added on the scoreboard but referee Bennett Salvatore waved it off and called a stationary Paul Pierce for an offensive foul because he "initiated the contact". The Celtics bench was in uproar. The fans cheered. Paul Pierce was dumbfounded.

The quarter ended with a Pistons 20-6 run and the Pistons had a 68-60 lead going into the final frame. Flip Saunders told Michelle Tafoya that he expected a Celtics run. I guess Flip's psychic because that's what happened after Detroit pushed the lead to 10 on a Hamilton jumper. First KG hit a long jumper, then after a stop Hulk got a wide open look from Pierce and finished with the and one. A free throw followed that cut the Pistons lead in half (70-65).

The C's got another stop and an ineffective Rasheed Wallace (4 pts on 2-12 from the field, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 TO's and 5 fouls in 32 minutes for a team low -15 on the night) fouled Kevin Garnett in the paint while he was shooting. KG knocked down both free throws to bring the lead down to 3 (70-67). The Celtics defense forced another turnover and Kevin Garnett got on the low block and hit a huge turnaround jumper over Maxiell. The lead wad down to 1 (70-69). Paul Pierce was fouled hard twice putting Detroit in the penalty. He hit a free throw to tie the game at 70.

While setting up the offense, Kendrick Perkins managed to pick Rip Hamilton's pocket and he alertly outletted the ball to a streaking Rajon Rondo. He got the ball to a wide open Posey for a three. No dice. The Pistons got the ball to Maxiell on the low block where he hit the turnaround jumper. Rondo hit Garnett for a long jumper to tie it up at 72. Jasion Maxiell hit a fadeaway jumper in the paint. 74-72. Paul Pierce got the ball at the top of the key and slashed his way into the paint, he went into the spin cycle, got hacked by McDyess and made a falling layup. And one. The game was now tied. The free throw fell in to give the Celtics a 75-74 lead with 5:25 left in the game.

On the following possession Rajon Rondo jumped and stole a lazy Rasheed Wallace pass and sprinted down the court. He circled the wagons and found Paul Pierce. Paul then settled into his patented wet 15-18 foot jumper from the bottom corner to push the lead to 77-74. Rasheed Wallace got the ball on the low block against Hulk hoping to stop the bleeding. He managed to get a good look but Perk came away with the board and the C's worked the ball down the Pierce who got fouled in the paint. He hit both free throws to push the lead to 79-74.

A Wallace jumper in the paint made the lead 79-76. Kevin Garnett worked his way into the paint and shot over Chauncey Billups to push the lead back to 5 at 81-76. The Celtics got a huge stop and they walked the ball down the court. The clock was the Pistons enemy and their fans were anxiously hoping that they could stop the bleeding and put together a run. The Celtics moved the ball around with the shot clock running down until they hit a wide open Rajon Rondo near the bottom corner of the court. He let it fly. Nothing but net. The Celtics were up 83-76 with 2:32 left in the game. Several Piston "fans" packed their shit and promptly made for the exits.

Chauncey Billups immediately tricked Rondo into a three point play to cut the lead down to 83-79 after the free throw. Boston got the ball down to their end with a couple of possessions but failed to score both times. The clock was down to 1:45 and the Pistons had possession down by only 4 points. Tayshaun Prince held the ball while his teammates made their way upcourt, this allowed James Posey to sneak up from behind and punch the ball loose. He gathered in the ball and gave it to Paul Pierce who held the ball until Rip Hamilton tackled him and put him at the line. Pierce hit both freebies to make it an 85-79 lead with 1:35 left in the game. More Piston "fans" started looking for an egress.

Chauncey Billups drove hard to the hole where he was met and turned away by The Hulk. Tayshaun Prince came up with the ball and hit a wide open Billups for a corner three that hit the front of the rim and bounced right into Kevin Garnett's hands. As he passed the ball to Rajon Rondo who then handed off to Paul Pierce and brought the ball up even more people began to file out of the building. After a time out, the C's got the clock under a minute but threw up an air ball from deep.

The Pistons got the rebound with the clock running down and Rip Hamilton once again front rimmed another three attempt right into Garnett's hands. He quickly passed the ball to Ray Allen who they wouldn't foul and he whipped the ball to KG with 36.6 seconds left on the clock. He missed both attempts but the mass exodus out of The Palace had already begun even though the game wasn't yet over.

Rasheed Wallace missed another three and Paul Pierce went to the line and made one. After a Stuckey miss at the other end, Ray Allen was fouled and knocked down two with 22.5 left to make it 88-79. A final Pierce free throw at 15.9 and a Garnett offensive rebound on a missed attempt closed the door on the Detroit Pistons season in grand fashion. After ten seasons in a Celtic jersey The Truth finally gets his shot at a title. His boy Antoine Walker got his ring in 2006 and now it's P's turn.

The Celtics could've folded after that phantom foul call but they gutted it out and decided to lay it all on the line and play like champions. They went on a 29-13 run in the 4th quarter powered by James Posey's defense on Chauncey Billups. He made huge plays and in 20 minutes of play he held Chauncey Billups to 2-6 in the 4th quarter and ended at a team best +14 for the night.

Pierce ended with 27 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Ray Allen chipped in 17 points and 6 rebounds and Kevin Garnett added 16 points 6 rebounds and 4 assists to round out the big three. Rondo (11 pts 4 off reb 3 ast) and Hulk (7 pts 7 reb 2 blk 2 stl and +13 overall) also came up big. Billups (29 pts 6 reb 6 ast) and Hamilton (21 pts 4 ast 2 blk) were huge but Wallace, Prince (10 pts) and McDyess pretty much disappeared when they were needed the most.

It's what we waited for all season long. Boston vs. L.A. in a no holds barred battle for ultimate basketball supremacy. I love this game!

Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Boston, MA @ TD Banknorth Garden
June 5th, 2008 @ 9:00 EST ABC
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers

Ubuntu! © Boston Celtics

Get a good seat, Spike!


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