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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Beat LA!

It doesn't matter how long it took to get there (20 games but who's counting), the Boston Celtics are in the 2008 NBA Finals thanks to a 89-81 win at the Palace of Auburn Hills last night in game 6.

After 21 years of mostly futility, the Celtics and Lakers fittingly take center stage, renewing a storied rivalry that had been dormant since the teams last met in the 1987 NBA Finals. It's the 11th time the two teams have met in the Finals, Boston has won eight of them.

So the Celtics couldn't win a road game against the Hawks, nor the Cavs, yet they pulled out two at the Palace against the Pistons? Makes sense, eh not really but who cares. The Celts took care of business and finally gave themselves a breather before they host LA on Thursday. After winning the previous two series in seven games, the C's couldn't afford to roll the dice again and go to seven with a team like the Pistons.

In the third quarter last night, the Pistons took advantage of some shady calls (how rough have the refs been this postseason, league-wide?) before settling into an eight-point advantage (68-60) going into the fourth.

With everything going against them and a game seven looming, the Celts played their best quarter of the playoffs. They outscored the Pistons, 29-13, and played lockdown defense while Detroit bricked one shot after another.

Paul Pierce led Boston with 27 points (12 in the fourth) and eight rebounds, Ray Allen had 17 points (13 in the first half) and six boards while Kevin Garnett posted 16 points (8 in the fourth) and six rebounds. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and Kendrick Perkins scored seven points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots.

For Detroit, Chauncey Billups (game-high 29 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) and Richard Hamilton (21 points) were outstanding but none of their teammates showed up. Tayshaun Prince (3 of 10 shooting) was the only other Piston in double figures with 10 points. Rasheed Wallace was 2 of 12 from the floor, Antonio McDyess had six points and Rodney Stuckey was 1 for 5.

The C's led 24-21 after the first quarter and took a 40-37 lead into the break. Allen was the early spark as he hit three 3-pointers in the half.

The third quarter was a complete disaster as Detroit regained the lead and Boston couldn't catch a break. Pierce hit a 3-pointer and looked like he drew a foul on Hamilton but somehow Pierce was called for the offensive foul. Just brutal.

In the fourth, the Celts used a 19-4 run (when Rondo was put back in for the ineffective Sam Cassell) to take a 79-74 lead. Billups made a three-point play to draw it to 83-79 but James Posey turned in the play of the game by picking Prince's pocket in the backcourt. Pierce made two free throws later on in the possession and Boston held on despite KG missing two free throws and Pierce missed one of two late.

With a combined 35 years of NBA experience between them, Pierce, Allen and Garnett finally get a trip to their first NBA Finals. It's been a bumpy road this postseason after such a smooth regular season but all three of them have stepped up when it counted.

The dream matchup of the Celtics and Lakers will finally happen. They've been the two best teams this season (after the Pau Gasol trade) so it has the potential to be a classic series considering all the talent involved. After the Cavs-Spurs snoozefest last June, the ratings for these Finals should be through the roof.

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