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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Celts best game since game 7 vs. Atlanta

Maybe all the talk of the rested, veteran Pistons having no problems with the exhausted Celtics was a little premature. Boston won 88-79 last night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the TD Banknorth Garden.

It was the Celtics most complete performance since game 7 against the Hawks in the first round. The C's jumped out to a 8-0 lead as Detroit looked tired and old, something you would have expected from a Celtics team that was playing its 11th game in 22 days.

The two best players on the floor last night were Kevin Garnett (game-high 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks) and Paul Pierce (22 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists). You could make a case too for Rajon Rondo (11 points, 7 assists, 5 steals) being the third best player.

Ray Allen tried to get untracked as he took the first shot of the game and not surprisingly missed. Allen finished with nine points and four assists on 3 of 10 shooting. His three baskets came on a layup, a dunk and a goaltending call. It was so bad that he airballed an in rhythm three-pointer.

Tayshaun Prince led the Pistons with 16 points, Richard Hamilton had 15 points and six rebounds, Antonio McDyess posted a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Rasheed Wallace notched 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting.

The biggest storyline for the Pistons is the health of point guard Chauncey Billups. Despite his claims that he was feeling great, Billups looked a step slow, on his way to nine points in 31 minutes. Most tellingly, he sat down the stretch as rookie Rodney Stuckey (9 points) took over ballhandling duties.

After the hot start, Boston cooled off and went 1 for their next 9 from the floor. Still, the Celts had a 22-17 lead after the first quarter. Detroit came back in the second quarter (mostly because they were getting to the line way more) and the C's held a 41-40 halftime lead.

The third quarter was where Boston really went to work as they outscored Detroit by 11 (28-17). Once again, PJ Brown (4 points) and Eddie House (5 points) provided the energy off the bench. Kendrick Perkins totalled five points and 10 rebounds while House drained a three-pointer right before the third quarter ended.

The Pistons hung around in the fourth quarter but ultimately couldn't get enough stops nor points on offense. Rondo hit two big baskets (a long jumper and a three) while Pierce hit a patented mid-range jumper from the elbow.

How much does this win mean? Probably not that much. We already knew the Celts (9-0) were nearly impossible to beat at home. The question is who (if anyone) will pick up the first road win in the series. More than anything, if Billups can't step his game up, the Pistons will have a hard time defeating the Celts. In a battle of two great defensive teams, the play of the point guard is of premium importance.

Boston shot 52.2% to Detroit's 42.4%. Neither team really shined at the line (Pistons were 19 of 27 while the Celtics were 14 of 21). Thanks to Rondo's speed and the unselfish play of everyone else, the C's owned the assists (27-15).

Game 2 is tomorrow night back at the Garden.

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