The Boston Celtics were able to pull out Game 7 at home against a scrappy Cleveland Cavalier squad on Sunday afternoon. Entering the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons, the Celtics are 8-0 at home in the playoffs and 0-6 on the road.
Of course those numbers bode well for Kevin Garnett and company, since they have the home court advantage. But can they beat Detroit in 7 games just like they won in the previous two series? That is a very tough question because the Pistons are by far the toughest opponent they will face in the playoffs.
The Atlanta Hawks barely made the playoffs with a sub-par record, and the Celtics should be embarrassed that it took seven games to take them down. Then the Cavaliers took Boston to the limit behind the stellar play of LeBron James.
In Game 7 against the Cavaliers, the Celtics were led by Paul Pierce who had an amazing 41-point performance. Pierce only has this type of playoff game in an elimination scenario, similar to his 46-point performance several years back in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Garnett had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but did not have an especially strong game for the talent that he is. Ray Allen continues to struggle, only scoring 4 points and shooting 1 for 6 from the field. The supporting cast of the big three did not step up in this game with the exception of veteran P.J. Brown.
If the Celtics do not clean up their act, especially Ray Allen, then they will have a hard time defeating the Pistons.
The “win at home-lose on the road” pattern that the Celtics have used thus far in the playoffs will not work against Detroit. The Pistons play well on the road and will most likely steal either games one or two in Boston. If the Celtics are to have a shot at advancing to the NBA Finals, they need to find a way to win on the road.
So this brings me to my next question: Why is it that this team with a ton of talent is having trouble winning in the playoffs?
The answer is simple: players who are used to losing don’t know how to win. As bad as that sounds, it’s true. If you compare the Boston Celtics to the San Antonio Spurs, the Celtics have much more talent. But the Spurs know how to win and that’s why they have won four NBA Championships with the last 11 years.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have been losing for most of their career. The two exceptions would be Garnett with the Timberwolves the one year they were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and Allen making a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
So when you combine veterans who don’t know how to win and a bunch of young players who haven’t had the opportunity to experience a winning team, you get the Boston Celtics' inability to win a road playoff game.
The Celtics have the talent and the ability to get to the NBA Finals and even win an NBA Championship. But they need to step it up and use a total team effort to defeat the Detroit Pistons.
This is the sixth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance for the Pistons and many of the players, including Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace, have been in this situation before. The Pistons play as a team and get a major contribution for any one of the “big four” on any given night.
If the Celtics can’t come through and defeat the Pistons, this season will most likely be considered a disappointment. It is up to Pierce, Garnett and Allen to step it up and finally, for the first time in their careers, play like champions.