Celts Still Perfect at Home in Postseason

By Stephen Alford
Updated: May 21, 2008

BOSTON — The Celtics will again try to extend its unbeaten-at-home streak when they host the Detroit Pistons in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals.

I’m not going to write the Celtics handled the Pistons easily in Game One when they defeated Detroit 88-79, but I will write it didn’t look too difficult. Half of the Celtics total points were scored in the trenches as they outscored Detroit 44-22 in the paint.

“That’s obviously unacceptable because when you’re playing a team like them, you’ve really got to limit their opportunities in the paint,” said Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince, who finished Game One with 16 points (7-of-16 FG).

“Obviously, if we let them score like that in the paint, it’s going to be a huge problem like that throughout the series. For them to get all those paint points and for us to be down six with five minutes to go, that was obviously in our favor. We’ve definitely got to do a better job of that.”

The Pistons were held to 42% from the field while Boston shot 52%, impressive for a team that just finished an emotional Game 7 against the Cleveland Cavaliers this past Sunday.

Detroit coach Flip Saunders didn’t blame the loss on the fact that the Pistons had not played since Tuesday. “It wasn’t a matter of rust as it was we had too many mental mistakes.”

“We weren’t in the right situations on some offensive sets. We weren’t in the right situation on some defensive rotations, and when you do that, it messes up the whole team. And the whole team looks a step slow because you’ve got one guy out of place at times. So we’ve got to look at some film and make sure that we get a little sharper on that, no question.”

Despite going no-for-4 from beyond the arc, Paul Pierce still finished the game shooting 50% from the field. All nine of Pierce’s field goals came within 16-feet of the basket, including a few nifty drives.

Four of Kevin Garnett’s 11 field goals were scored in the paint. No Detroit defender could match Garnett, as he finished the game filling the stat book with 26 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal in 37 minutes.

“He just got aggressive,” said Saunders, who coached KG during his tenure in Minnesota. “You know, (he) got in situations, pick‑and‑pop situations, knocking down the 17‑footer. He played well.”

“KG is one of those that if he gets off to a good start and hits the first two or three jumpers, he can get it rolling. I think he was extra excited to play against Rasheed, gets pumped up to play. He came out and I thought he set the tone early.”

Set the tone early is exactly what KG did. He scored six of the Celtics first 10 points, and finished the opening frame with eight points.

“We wanted to establish Kevin,” said Pierce. “We know the success he’s had against Detroit. We feel like Kevin has an advantage almost every night especially on the one‑on‑one or on the block, on the wing, so we try to get him the ball and establish that.”

“Once you start doing that, it makes my life easier and guys on the perimeter because his unselfishness, his aggressiveness, opens up the lanes once he swings it. It’s great to have a guy like this, and I’ve never played with anybody like this in my whole career. He just makes my life so much easier.”

The Celtics tied the Pistons with 37 total rebounds, but Boston’s starting front court outrebounded Detroit 25-20, and held Wallace to five boards in 37 minutes. Wallace hopes to rebound from his poor performance from the field in Game One when he finished 3-for-12 and no-for-3 from three-point territory.

The Celtics will again rely on second-year point guard Rajon Rondo to lead the team tonight. Rondo finished Game One with 11 points, including one from the deep end, seven assists, five steals, and only one turnover in 40 minutes of action.

“He did a nice job defensively picking up the floor, got into some things off the ball, knocking some things,” said Coach Saunders when asked about Rondo’s performance in Game One. “And then he made the big shot out of the corner, made the big three, two big shots in the fourth quarter.”

“When the shot clock was coming down, he rose up and shot that like he knew it was going in. When he’s making those shots, like I said ‑‑ I thought at the beginning of the year when we played them, I thought he was one of the most improved players in the league, and he’s playing extremely well, especially in these playoffs at home.”

On the other hand, his counterpart, former-Celtic Chauncey Billups, who suffered a hamstring injury during the last round of the playoffs, but said he was 100% healthy, attempted only six shots in the game and finished with nine points and only two assists in 31 minutes.

“He hasn’t really played in a game since ten days or so, so I think he looked a little bit ‑‑ wasn’t as maybe comfortable coming off screens looking to shoot it as quick,” said Saunders. “I thought he was a little better even late. Even though he missed a couple late, he looked more for his shot. He’s going to have to be aggressive for us.”

“I felt good. It was good just getting back out there,” said Mr. Big Shot Billups. “Obviously my explosiveness wasn’t really there. But I felt good, I was happy to be out there, and I know I did better as the game went along.”

“I think he’s healthy and I think he’s 100 percent, but when you sit out that many games or that many days in a row, without having an exhibition game, and you come back and your first game is a playoff game, that’s difficult,” said Celtic Coach Doc Rivers. “He’ll keep getting better, we understand that.”

Ray Allen continued his shooting woes, finishing the game 3-for-10 from the field, and missing his only three-point attempt. However, Sugar Ray did contribute in other ways, dishing out four assists and collecting two steals. Fortunately for Ray, he has another shot at home to break out of his slump.

When asked about how he thinks Detroit will respond to stopping Boston from scoring in the paint, Rivers replied “Obviously they’re going to try to keep us from dribble penetration, clearly. I guarantee you that’s one of them.”

“And the other area is what they’re going to do with Kevin, are they going to trap or not. Hell, there’s only a certain number of things you can do and then when they do it we have to adjust to it. So we’ll be ready.”