Just over 4 months ago, the Celtics successful finished their 26-game march to the 2008 NBA Championship. In tribute of that historic playoff run, we're analyzing the play-offs on a round-by-round basis. The Primer for these analyses was presented here.
This is the fourth of five articles that cover the Celtics' 2008 playoff series. Herein, we feature the Celtics 6-game series with the team that some thought the Celtics were destined to face in the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) - the Detroit Pistons.
A quick reference to all the play-off game recaps, box scores and highlights for the Celtics are provided at NBA.com. An analysis of the Celtics versus the Pistons, Round 3 of the Playoffs, is revealed below . . .
If I recall, most of the pundits picked the Pistons over somebody other than the Celtics in the ECF, like the Cavaliers, or heaven forbid - last year's Miami Heat. Certainly when the Celtics stormed out of the gate with their awesome record to begin the season - there was always the question - but can they beat the Pistons?
Everyone saw the Pistons as the litmus test for the new-fangled Celtics when they came into Boston on December 19, 2007. The Celtics were 20-2 and the Pistons were putting it together nicely as usual with a 17-7 record, best in the Central Division. It so happened that the Pistons showed the Celtics their place by edging the Celtics after that 3-point foul miscue by Tony Allen on Chauncey Billups that will haunt Tony for a while longer I'm afraid.
Well the Celtics evened the score in a dramatic fashion when they won the rematch in Detroit on January 5th, with Big Baby Davis having the game of his young career. Winning in Detroit certainly made the victory that much sweeter. The rubber match was then taken in convincing fashion by the Celtics on March 5th in Boston, behind 31 points by the Big Ticket and 20 rebounds by Kendrick Perkins. The win also clinched a very early playoff birth for the Celtics.
With regard to defensive intensity - this series seemed to settle in somewhere in between the Hawks series and the Cleveland series. The Pistons had a 6 day lay off while the Celtics had to go with one day rest after the Game 7 battle with the LeBrons. Celtics took care of business and won Game 1 at home, preserving their undefeated record at home in the playoffs, only to lose Game 2 in Boston. The talk was that Boston couldn't win on the road and that the writing may be on the wall for Celtics. But wouldn't you know it? The Celtics won Game 3 in Detroit and dispelled the myth that they weren't road warriors. Phew!
This series relied heavily on the starters again, with the bench playing borderline mediocre in the short minutes they received - and that included their good luck charm James Posey. Fortunately the junior members on the starting unit were the ones able to step up and help Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen get the job done, i.e., Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins.
The Top 10 Plays of the Series at NBA.Com are presented here. It's a lot of Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stuckey from the Pistons side - watch out for those two. Fortunately, the Celtics youngsters Rondo and Perkins had a few of their own.
Here's a summary of the Celtics17 awards for Celtics players during the Pistons playoff series:
The Bill Russell Award - The Series Defensive Player Award
KENDRICK PERKINS turned it on in this series, and played up to his potential by leading the Celtics with a plus-minus of +42. It was wonderful to see Perk step up, stay out of foul trouble and take care of the ball to give this team a solid lift it need. This was especially evident on the defensive end where except for Antonio McDyess and his hot jump shooting (56% for the series), the Detroit front line never really got it going. Rasheed Wallace and McDyess each averaged only 12 points per game, and that simply wasn't enough for Detroit. Of course, Garnett was an honorable mention as he IS the Boston front court on most nights, but we want to give special recognition to Perkins and all his fans for his play in this series. To his credit, Perkins lead the team in blocks (1.2 per game) and tied for 2nd most in steals behind Rondo, along with a host of other players. Nice job in this series Perk!
The Larry Bird Award - The Series Offensive Player Award
KEVIN GARNETT again lead all players in scoring with a 22.8 per game average, and nearly averaged a double-double with 9.7 rebounds per game. He tied with Ray Allen with the 2nd highest plus-minus of +35, had the highest Position Adjusted Win Score (PAWS) per minute of 0.244, an NBA Efficiency of 22.5, with contributed an excellent 52% field goal percentage. What's not to like when it comes to the Big Ticket? An honorable mention goes to Ray Allen who got back to his old shooting ways after Cleveland and hit 11 threes in the series and averaged 17.5 points per game.
The Sam Jones Award - The Series Clutch Player Award
RAY ALLEN actually answered the call more than once and is the recipient of the Clutch Player award for this series. After losing Game 2 at home, the Celtics needed to win on the road and Ray Allen helped make that happen in Game 3 by scoring 7 points, getting 3 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists in the 4th quarter in the 94-80 win by the Celtics. Unfortunately, he was outplayed by Rip Hamilton, who also was en fuego in the clutch for the Pistons, but at least he helped the Celtics keep pace when the Pistons attempted to make their run late in the game.
The Bill Walton Award - The Series Sixth Man Award
JAMES POSEY - again, but really none of the bench performed up to their potential in this series.
The Tom Heinsohn Award - The Series Spark Plug Award for Production in Short Minutes
Leon Powe and James Posey had the only positive PAWS per minute for the Celtics bench, and the bench just didn't shine all that bright in this series. So we're shelving the Tom Heinsohn Award for this series. As evidence that the bench was not relied on heavily in this series, Rajon Rondo had an impressive 38.8 minutes per game (mpg), and even Perkins played 32.2 mpg, both well above their regular season average for playing time. P.J. Brown and Posey were the only bench players with more than 10 mpg in the series.
The Series MVP
KEVIN GARNETT is recieving his 3rd straight playoff series MVP. Like the previous series, he kept it going on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball like none other, and as previously mentioned, he had the best PAWS per minute on the team, and tied for 2nd best overall plus-minus for this series with Ray Allen.
Next up - a dance with the Lakers in Finals - and chants of BEAT LA! ring true.