Starters Key in Stopping Pistons 106-102

By Stephen Alford
Updated: May 29, 2008

BOSTON— The Boston Celtics will have the chance to eliminate the Detroit Pistons Friday, as Boston takes its 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series to Auburn Hills for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Championship.

Boston’s starting five combined for 103 of the team’s 106 total points in Game 5 when the Celtics barely got by the Pistons 106-102. Celtics Nation is hopeful that Kendrick Perkins can have the career game that he had in Game 5 when he provided the Celtics with energy early in the game, helping Boston get off to a great start.

Perkins, who scored 18 points on 8-for-11 from the field, also grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds, including three offensive rebounds and eight total rebounds in the opening frame, and recorded two blocks. Big Perk may prove to be the X-factor in this series.

The 6-foot-10 center, who is in his fifth year in the League, has been shooting at a 75% clip from the field in the last three games (18-for-24). “Perkins was great on the glass,” said Detroit coach Flip Saunders on Wednesday.

“Perkins is eating us up. The games that they’ve won, he’s had big games. He’s played well for them as far as on the glass.”

“We talked about (rebounding) before the game. They destroyed us last game,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “(Antonio) McDyess had seven offensive rebounds on his own. Coming into this series that was the number two thing that we felt we had to do to win this series. Number one was pressure; ball pressure.”

“So we talked about it, and Perk went out and did it, and I thought that freed everyone else. He was sensational tonight, played with great energy. That’s three games in a row that Kendrick Perkins has been absolutely phenomenal.”

“No one saw it the last game because we lost it, but he was fantastic in that game, as well, with his energy. It was just good. The rebounding was huge for us tonight.”

“I said I was going to be aggressive offensively, said Big Perk. “I just said I was going to play with a lot of energy. I knew our Big Three veteran guys, I know this opportunity don’t come much, and I knew if I was up in age, up in my 30s, and a young fellow was right there I’d want him to go all out for me, too. My thing is I’m going to leave it out there on the court, for myself, for my teammates and for everybody.”

Rebounding will continue to be a huge factor in the outcome of the series. Currently, the Celtics have outrebounded the Pistons in all but one game of this series. Boston tied Detroit with 37 rebounds in Game 1.

Despite scoring 25 points on 8-for-14 shooting, Detroit guard Rip Hamilton’s injured himself in the fourth quarter of Game 5. The Pistons may have to turn to rookie Rodney Stuckey to guard Ray Allen, who may have shot his way out of his slump.

Prior to him scoring a Game 5-high 29 points (9-for-15 from the field, 5-for-6 from the deep end, and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe), Mr. “He Got Game” was only shooting 38% from the field. However, Allen got hot in the third quarter of Wednesday’s game, as he scored 16 points in the third frame, including three shots from three-point territory.

While Detroit was staging a comeback after starting the fourth quarter with a 13-point deficit, Sugar Ray nailed a huge shot from just inside the three-point line to give Boston a 102-99 cushion with 1:02 remaining in the game (84-71). Allen then hit two crucial free throws with 6.3 seconds remaining in regulation to give Boston a 104-101 advantage.

“He’s a great player. He hasn’t stopped being great,” said Rivers. “He just hadn’t played well in a while. It didn’t bother me. It didn’t stop me from running things for him still. My belief was he needed two or three (made shots) in a row instead of one. Everyone kept saying he needs one.”

“I thought he needed two or three to get him going. He got it going. We came out of time‑outs and got him some other shots. Kevin got tired in the third and we had to take him out, and getting Ray going was huge for us, and it was huge for Ray.”

“This has been a tough stretch for Ray, and I give him a ton of credit. Number one, I thought this was his best defensive night, and to me that’s more important,” Doc continued. “Number two, he never changed his routine, he never did anything different. He kept working on his game.”

“He kept believing every day, and that’s probably why he’s been so great through his career, because he believes. Hell, if that had been me, I’d have been a basket case as a player. Most players would have been. But that’s the difference between the good ones and the great ones.”

Allen believes the difference was pushing the ball and running at every opportunity. He would like to see that same style of play carry into Game 6 Friday. “There’s a flow that’s created out there during the game, and it really depends on all of us, where we move the ball and everybody gets easy looks,” said.

“I told (Rajon) Rondo a couple of minutes ago that my first two threes in the first half came because we got the rebound and pushed it up ahead, and I was able to get two threes off. And I said, when we run, the more we run as a team, the more I score.”

“Defense is out of place, and we shoot over the top, the bigs run, we get easy lay‑ups. So it does make it easier for me when we run and we move the ball. I get easier looks, but at the same time, I’ve been trying to drive the ball more over the past couple of games.”

Celtics Nation should expect another strong showing from KG Friday. Neither Rasheed Wallace, McDyess, or Theo Ratliff have been able to find a way to stop The Big Ticket, who has been averaging 24.2 points this series, including 33 points in Game 5.

We knew the significance of this game,” said KG. “You don’t win this game, you put basically yourself in a corner. … They’re experienced, and they’ve been in a lot of pressure situations. Now it’s up to us to go up there and try to get one.”

“Getting one” in Detroit will be virtually impossible if the Celtics repeat their near fourth quarter collapse on Wednesday when Detroit outscored Boston 31-22, and whittled a 13-point deficit to one point with 8.2 seconds to play.

“Man, it was the longest fourth quarter out of all the games we played in,” told The Truth Paul Pierce (16 points, six assists). “I was a little disappointed the way we played the fourth quarter. I thought throughout the game we played well, but the fourth quarter is something we’re going to have to go back and look at because if we get ourselves in this position again in Detroit, we’ve got to be able to close the game out a little bit better than we did tonight.”

“Having a 13‑point lead we knew they were going to be aggressive. Thinking about having the lead in the fourth quarter we’ve got to continue to be aggressive. I thought we were a little passive when they put out the traps, but you’ve got to understand, hey, that’s the playoffs and it’s not going to be easy.”

“We’ve got to be a little bit more aggressive in the fourth than we were. I thought we just kind of let the time pass away and hoping that we were going to win the game. But we’ve got to put forth a better effort and better execution in the fourth.”

The Celtics now have two opportunities to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since the Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish led the Celtics to the championship series in 1987.

However, Doc is hopeful that the team isn’t thinking that they got two games to win one. He would rather the team focus on Game 6. “We’ve just got to think about the next game,” said Doc, referring to the game tonight.

“We’ve got to have a great focus and a great intensity there. You know, they’ve won titles, they’ve been in this position before. We just have to go in there and play our game. That’s the whole key. Whatever happens, happens. But we’ve got to make sure we play our game. We can’t get caught up in anything that they’re doing. I thought that was important tonight.”

“We talked about it a lot yesterday and a lot today. They were grabbing and bumping and holding last game and it affected us, and tonight they were grabbing and bumping and holding and it didn’t affect us. We kept playing. We played through it. “

“We caught the ball when we should have caught the ball. I thought the only point where it did affect us was down the stretch when we were not aggressive anymore and we were trying to hold onto the lead again, and that’s the second time we’ve done that instead of running through the game.”

“The good thing about it is we’re going home,” said Billups, who seemed to recover from the hamstring injury he suffered in the series against the Orlando Magic. He led Detroit with 26 points and six assists. “We’ve been here before, and we don’t like being in this position, but we’ve fought hard.”

Detroit will not doubt come out fighting in Game 6. But Doc has the Celtics watching old Muhammed Ali fights, telling them it’s not how many times you get hit, it’s if you keep moving forward.

If Boston moves forward Friday, they will host the Western Conference champions on Thursday, June 5 when the NBA Finals begin.