Dispatching Orlando early enough to take a week off didn't do the Pistons any favors, as they looked like a tired, out-of sync squad.
The idea that Boston would be beaten before they even showed up was nice to fantasize about, but far from the truth. They came out hungry and aggressive, while Detroit played the gracious guest, shooting horribly and supplying the Celtics with turnovers.
The Celtics went right at them, feeding Kevin Garnett (26 points, 9 rebounds) who went right to work, and scored eight in the first and six in the second quarter. He got the better of Rasheed Wallace (FG 3-12, 11 points) at both ends of the floor, and gave Boston an aura of control all game.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were just as lethal in their key match-ups as well.
Tayshaun Prince (16 points), the Piston stopper, played lethargically against Pierce, who gave Boston a solid all-around game with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, and quashed any hope the Pistons could muster with his clutch shooting.
Though Pierce had some nice assists, he also threw the ball away on occasion, something Detroit can perhaps capitalize on later in the series.
The return of Chauncey Billups landed with a resounding thud.
While his presence calmed the team, his play was erratic, and he sat for extended periods of time. What was suppose to be a decided advantage against Rondo, it was the Celtic guard who captained the game with precision point play.
Although Billups (9 points, 2 assists, and 2 steals in 31 minutes) looked like he had a good game going, he wasn't nearly as good as Rondo, who compiled a solid 11 points, 7 assists and 5 steals with a single turnover.
The Pistons often switched defensive assignments putting Rip Hamilton (FG 5-13, 15 points, 6 rebounds) on Rondo to protect Billups, who would take the struggling Ray Allen.
Antonio McDyess played solid offense (14 points) and had a game-high 11 rebounds, but was still lost on defense and was killing the momentum with untimely turnovers and bad decisions, especially on defense and fouling.
Were the Pistons sucked into the favorite's role—one they would rather not have been?
Maybe. The fact was the pressure had been on the team that succumbed to it.
Pistons' Flip Saunders perhaps felt a shorter bench was wiser, for he dressed both Amir Johnson and Jarvis Hayes, and neither saw a minutes action. I feel that Johnson's athleticism and Hayes' offensive game should have been at least explored in this game.
Boston needed to keep winning at home because they have struggled on the road—they did. Detroit needed to come out and make a statement and show that they would be rested, not rusty—they didn't.
So much for the "rest versus rust" argument.
Game Two between the Celtics and the Pistons is on Thursday, and it may be critical for Detroit to get a win there in order to shift the pressure to the Celtics before heading to the Palace.
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