The Detroit Pistons capped a memorable Memorial Day weekend with big victories in their respective series.
From the opening tip, Detroit came out aggressively on both ends of the floor. The good? A 12-2 run to start the game and lead throughout the contest. The bad? The aggression made the Celtics shoot poorly from the floor (21-66, 32%), but allowed them to parade to the free throw line all game long (32-39).
The most important factors in this rough-and-tumble rumble were the Pistons keeping their cool and playing through a closely called basketball game, and being consistent on defense.
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen shot a collective 11-38 from the floor and the Celtic role players weren't making the impact they did in game three.
Did the Celtics take a deep breath after getting their first road win of the playoffs?
Maybe, but much like anaconda, the Pistons were sure to let them breathe Monday night at the Palace and squeeze the life out of them to tie this series at 2-2.
Antonio McDyess played his best playoff game as a Piston since his arrival, repeatedly making Boston pay for leaving him open and nailing jumper after jumper. He would finish with game-highs of 21 points and 16 rebounds.
Jason Maxiell pulled his best Tayshaun Prince imitation with a tremendous swat on a breakaway dunk by Garnett that brought the crowd to its feet. He also was solid from the floor at both rims and scored a personal playoff-best of 14 points on 6-6 shooting.
While captain Chancey Billups (3-12 FGs, 10 points, 7 assists) struggled yet again offensively, he did open the game aggressively, directing the team and yelling out commands in both offensive and defensive sets, a problem for Detroit in their losses.
While James Posey hit the game's first three with about seven minutes left in the game, it was a Billups three with just under three that staved off the final Boston push and moved the lead back to ten.
Richard Hamilton was clutch through the fourth with back-breaking lay-ups and being perfect from the line. He would finish 8-10 for 20 points with 7 assists, though he had foul difficulty like many of the Pistons.
Boston won game three with defense and ball movement. They seemed to try too many extra passes in game four as both Garnett (6-16, 16 points, 10 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (2-8, 4 points) seemed to pass up open shots during crunch time.
Rondo, I understand, has been yo-yoed in-and-out of the games since the scene shifted to Detroit, but Garnett is Boston's "Big Ticket" and he should be taking control of the game instead of deferring.
Ray Allen (2-8, 11 points) missed two big free throws late and after somewhat of a reprieve from his scoring slump, also came up short Monday night. He, too, would get to the rim only to try a difficult, in-close pass to Garnett which went out of bounds and turned the ball over.
Rasheed Wallace couldn't keep himself out of foul trouble, but was a big factor down low in his limited looks. Why Detroit goes away from pounding it inside to him, especially when they are struggling to get offense, is puzzling. In 32 minutes, he scored 14 points on 6-9 shooting, grabbed 5 rebounds and blocked 5 shots, but was yanked from the game due to foul trouble each time he would get rolling.
While the team needs Sheed on offense, they could also use Prince to bounce back and become more of a threat as he suffered through another rough shooting night (3-12 FGs) and is a collective 5-23 in the last two ball games.
The Pistons will need every bit of the same intensity and aggressiveness in game five back in Boston. While the Celtics stayed in the game at the line, we know from their performance in the playoffs this season that will come out guns blazing at the Garden and Detroit will need that "us against the world" mentality to steal another win there.
If they can come back to the Palace up 3-2 instead of down, they could end the series—the team that wins game five wins the series 83% of the time. And, by making Boston 0-6 in games where they enter the fourth quarter behind, let's hope they can keep things close in a hostile environment, and rely on their veteran savvy to close the Garden for the season.
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