Pistons-Celtics: Detroit Squares Things Up at the Garden, Ties Series 1-1
If you're a fan of the Pistons, you knew Thursday night's game two was a must win. The veterans "and one" came up huge tonight, especially down the stretch and won their ninth consecutive game two in a playoff series. As the team that gave Boston their first loss at the Garden this season, Detroit gave a workman like effort and handed the Boston their first playoff loss 103-97.
Time and time again, and as time was winding down, each of the veterans hit huge shots to keep the surging Celtics at bay as they had cut an 11 point lead down to two, 88-86, on a three by the resurrected Ray Allen (9-16, 2-4 from the arc, 25 points).
The other two-thirds of the "Big Three" played magnificently as well. Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 13 rebounds and Paul Pierce used an array of drives and jumpers to hammer home 26 points and dish 5 assists. Rajon Rondo, despite passing up some open looks and a couple ill-advised plays (face-guarding foul and shovel pass that was stolen), played another solid floor game with 10 points, 9 rebounds (three offensive), 8 assists and 3 steals.
The Pistons moved the ball on offense and were aggressive on defense. Although they came out shooting poorly again in game two (38% in the first period), they kept their poise and the game close, down 20-18 after one. It was in the second quarter where the team found their stroke and got scoring from all positions.
Both Rodney Stuckey and Lindsey Hunter got crucial minutes and made plays that sparked the in the second as both Chauncey (19 points, 7 assists, zero turnovers) and Rip Hamilton (25 points) were able to come and go from the game and the team lost little continuity.
With Boston allowing a mere 79 points per game at home in the playoffs, Detroit scored 32 in the second and had a little breathing room heading into the half up seven, 50-43.
Boston was not about to fold tent and they came out hard in the third quarter. Their 15-4 run gave them the lead and the momentum. Allen was finding ways to score and both Pierce and Garnett were their usual solid and consistent selves.
The Pistons kept it close in the third by going to the pump fakes to draw the foul (including Allen's 5th) and shoot strong from the line. On defense, both Tayshaun Prince (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Hamilton took turns on Pierce and while he scored his points, they made each possession work for him and nothing came easy. Rasheed, who was an unthinkable 1-20 from three point land, hit two straight massive shots from the arc in scoring his 13 points and added 10 rebounds.
Boston head coach Doc Rivers said in the post-game presser. The Pistons made more plays down the stretch than the Celts did. A jumper by Prince, and runner by Hamilton with the clock running down with Garnett on him, Sheed hits a jumper that pushes the lead back to six at 90-84.
Rodney Stuckey played from the third and started the fourth with both Billups and Hamilton on the bench and hit big shots from bothnear and far, finishing with13 big points and look very composed and confident as the game went on. His strength going to the rack was undeniable and is gaining more and more moxie in the crucial moments of the game. His 13 came in only 17 minutes of play.
Even with the stout defensive effort, there were time when you would like the Pistons to maybe take a step back. They were very aggressive and often were getting called for tripping fouls from being up under the opposition. Theo Ratliff is a shot blocker and guards that lane, which left P.J. Brown open for for shots. Pierce is allowed to drive the lane too freely, which is difficult because he can go either right or left.
While Rondo was solid, he was not a priority as his man would help double team on Pierce or Garnett, but was wasn't fool proof because Allen was able to get it going. But with the Pistons hitting 6-9 too start the fourth, while Boston was shooting 3-13, they were able to make it an 11 point lead with 10 minutes left, and make the Celts play from behind.
Just as Boston had not lost at home, they have not won on the road. In this series, we can see how evenly matched these teams are and I would not be surprised to see them gain their first playoff road win at the Palace. The Piston crowd will have to be as intense as the Boston fans, which shouldn't be a problem for the league's leading attendance and over 230 consecutive sellouts.
We are liable to see some of Sam Cassell in Detroit as they brought him in for his experience and although Eddie House has played well at times, he struggled this game at 0-3 in only seven minutes.
Chauncey was much better tonight and you could see the effect it had on the rest of the team. Going back to the Palace, he and the rest of the Pistons will need to focus on the crucial parts of the game. Defense, turnovers, ball movement, and assists. While they can manufacture enough offense to win, its containing the Big Three that's key to making it to the final two.
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