The Boston Celtics are home for good and hope that tonight’s Game 6 match up against the Los Angeles Lakers will be their last of the season. A win would mean the return to glory in capturing the franchises 17th NBA title, a quest they have been on for 22 years. While Boston sits one win away from making history, the Lakers hope to extend the series to a Game 7 which would be Thursday night in Boston and will also try to make history in becoming the first team to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win a title.
The story of the Finals so far has been the leadership of Celtics veteran guard Paul Pierce. Pierce is averaging 22.8 points a game in the finals as well as 5.6 assists. Those numbers have lifted the play of some of his teammates including Rajon Rondo who had a 16 assist effort in the Celtics Game 2 victory. Leon Powe also had a break out Game 2 performance netting 21 points in only 15 minutes of action.
Besides elevating his teammates play, Pierce has done an excellent job of shutting down the NBA’s best player and MVP in Kobe Bryant. In the 15 playoff games leading up to the Finals, Bryant averaged 31.9 points a game. In the Finals, Pierce is holding Bryant to 26.4 points a night and about 7 of those points are coming from the free throw line each game. On the series, Bryant is shooting 42% from the field, which is considerably down from his first three playoff series against the West in which he shot 169 of 332 from the floor, good for 51%. Pierce’s presence can certainly be felt.
“We’re one up, with two games to go at home,” said Pierce, who dropped 38 points in Game 5. “It still feels like we have the advantage, and I do feel like we’re the better team.”
Boston hopes to see Ray Allen stay hot from behind the arc. The sharpshooter has connected on 15 of 33 shots from 3-point land in the Finals, a 45% clip.
The Celtics were without starting center Kendrick Perkins in the Game 5 loss in LA due to a shoulder injury he suffered earlier in the series. His presence was missed as the Lakers were able to capitalize multiple times on second chance points in the paints. He will be a game time decision tonight but his team is hoping he’s ready to go.
“Perk is a physical guy,” said teammate Kevin Garnett. “He plays the post better than anybody in this league. That’s what he does. When you lose a key guy, you’re losing something.”
Garnett himself is still looking for a breakout game in the Finals and what a better time to have the performance than in a potential championship clincher. Versus L.A., KG is averaging only 16.6 points a night compared to the 21.1 he had been averaging in the three playoff series against the Eastern Conference teams (ATL, CLE, DET). He called his Game 5 performance “disgusting” and vowed that Game 6 would be a different story as he and the rest of the Celtics are excited to return home.
“It’s going to be like coming into the Amazon, into the jungle,” he said. “I look forward to coming home and playing.”
The entire city of Boston is fired up for tonight’s Game 6 match up. For the first time in over 20 years a local team has the chance to capture a league title in their hometown. The 04′ and 07′ Red Sox won the World Series on the road, and with the rotating Super Bowl locations the Patriots weren’t even close to New England for their three titles in 01′, 03′ and 04′.
Tonight has the potential to be something amazing. Hopefully, Boston is the city where amazing happens and the Celtics long quest for Green 17 becomes a reality. With a win tonight the Celtics will get their 17th banner in game 6 on 6/17.
All the Los Angeles Lakers needed was a bit of hometown loving, and that’s exactly what they got in Tuesday nights 87-81 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center in downtown LA. Kobe Bryant scored 36 points and led the Lakers to a key victory pulling the series to a 2-1 Boston edge. The win improves LA’s home record during the 2008 playoffs to a perfect 9-0 and again forces the question about whether the Celtics road struggles will continue.
Last night’s display by Bryant clearly showed any doubters why he is in fact the reigning MVP of the NBA. Boston knew the man could flat out play, but they had yet to see him take over a game the way he did Tuesday. When he was given space, he’d nail the open jumper. The minute the double teams came flying his way, he was able to distribute the ball to teammates for high percentage looks. On the defensive end he was able to shut down Paul Pierce, holding him to only 6 points on a 2-14 shooting effort.
The clutch performance could not have come at a better time because no team in the NBA Finals has even been able to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a championship.
“What I tried to do with my teammates is just stay calm,” Bryant said. “It wasn’t the end of the world. They did a great job of defending home court. We knew we had to come here and do the same. They feed off of my confidence and I have all the confidence in the world that we can come here and win.”
During the first quarter, neither team jumped out to a large lead and both looked a little jet lagged coming out of the gates. The Lakers missed their first five shots from the floor while the Celtics started the game only 1-8 from the field. After a huge free throw discrepancy in Game 2 in which Boston attempted 38 compared to LA’s 10, the Lakers were able to get to the line 14 times in the first quarter, setting the tone early.
“We just wanted to play,” said Bryant, whose only blemish on the night was an 11-of-18 performance from the foul line. “I don’t think anyone was feeling desperate.”
With 4:01 left on the clock in first half, Kobe calmly knocked down an 18 foot jump shot which opened up the Lakers largest first half lead making the score 40-29. The Celtics were able to put together a little run to close the quarter and the halftime score had LA on top 43-37.
Boston was able to control play in the 3rd quarter outscoring LA 25-17 to take a 62-60 lead heading into the last frame on play. Ray Allen paced the Celtics scoring 10 in the quarter and finished with 25 on the night hitting five 3-point shots, but it was not enough to overcome Kobe and the Lakers 4th quarter effort.
“As bad as we played, we still had opportunities,” Allen said. “That’s the positive. We can look at it, but I don’t think on either side of the floor we were good. We had so much more room for improvement.”
For the first five minutes of the 4th quarter both teams traded bucket for bucket. The momentum would shift on a pivotal shot that came from Bryant with 6:55 left to play. With the Celtics leading by two points at 68-66, a slow defensive rotation left the MVP wide open at the top of the key. Kobe hadn’t been this wide open since he participated in the 3-point shoot out competition a few years ago during the All-Star weekend. Knowing the importance of the shot, he was able to completely collect himself before draining the 3-point trey which would put LA up for good.
A quick spurt capped by a Pau Gasol tip in would make the score 77-70 in favor of the Lakers and things began looking grim for the Celtics. Coming out of a timeout, Boston was able to roll off six quick points and trim the score back to a two point game, 78-76 with 2:41 left to play.
After a missed 3-point attempt by Sasha Vujacic, the Celtics had the ball with a little over 2 minutes left to play and a chance to tie the score. A broken offensive set resulted in an off balance runner by reserve PG Eddie House that did not fall. The Lakers made them pay for the poor choice in shot selection on the next possession. Vujacic redeemed himself and nailed a 3-point jump shot right in front of the Celtics bench, putting LA back up by 5 with under 2 minutes to play.
With lots of playoff experience, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was able to calm his young roster down and help them hold on for the Game 3 victory.
“Kobe was fantastic but I thought Vujacic was the key to the game,” Jackson said. “I said before we are going to have to win a game when Kobe Bryant plays well. We know that. But when that happens, we have to shut off the other avenues.”
L.A’s defensive intensity improved dramatically with the change of coasts. In Boston, LA had allowed the Celtics to score an average of 103 points per game in Games 1 & 2 of the Finals. Game 3 they limited the Celtics to 81 points and held them to a .349 shooting percentage, their 2nd worst percentage in 23 games of the 2008 playoffs.
The Celtics certainly had plenty of chances to steal this game but every time they pulled close, Bryant was able to take matters into his own hands.
Even though Bryant’s performance was an unbelievable effort, some C’s fans may still have a little bone to pick with coach Doc Rivers. Before last night’s game, reserve PG Eddie House had seen exactly 10 seconds of action over the course of the Celtics four previous playoff wins. Rivers had been using Sam Cassell for the most part in the role of back up PG to starter Rajon Rondo. For whatever reason, Rivers decided to call House’s number last night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Nothing against Eddie House, he’s a great set shooter and can certainly knock down a 3-point shot when he’s open and has the time to set, but what was Doc thinking putting him in the game last night and giving him the green light to fire away? House attempted a ridiculous number of 8 shots in 19 minutes of action. It may not sound that bad if you haven’t been following the C’s playoff run, but here’s some food for thought. Before last night’s game, House had only attempted 6 shots in the previous 8 games in only 17 minutes of combined action. That’s .75 shots and 2.125 minutes per game.
Did we miss something Doc? Was your plan all along to save Eddie for the big game pressure situation with everything on the line? Does that mean you’re thinking about sending Brian Scalabrine in there for Game 4?
One thing is for sure, for the Celtics to win in L.A. they are going to need the Big Three to all produce. In the Game 3 loss, Pierce and Kevin Garnett both had sub par outings and that cannot happen if Boston expects to win. Lets be realistic, Leon Powe is not going to score 21 points a game, nor is Rondo going to dish out 16 assists every night like their Game 2 lines.
The environment in LA is hostile and nothing like that of Boston, but that’s no excuse. Now is the time for the Celtics to simply make the necessary adjustments and shake off the road loss. They’ve shut down Kobe and the Lakers four times already this year, last night he merely got the best of them.
Hats off to Kobe, but lesson learned, don’t let it happen again.
The 2008 NBA Finals were supposed to be all about the match ups. Who would prevail as the dominant leader, Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce? Which big man would own the inside, Kevin Garnett or Pau Gasol? What sharp shooter would rain down perimeter shots, Ray Allen or Sasha Vujacic?
With Boston’s 108-102 Game 2 victory in the books, one match up the Lakers never saw coming was the explosiveness of Celtics’ reserve Leon Powe. In one of the most impressive performances by a bench player in the 2008 playoffs, Powe went off for 21 points on 6-7 shooting in only 15 minutes of action to help lead the Celtics to their second win and a 2-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Powe, who scored a total of 8 points in the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Detroit, made the most of his minutes and provided a huge spark off the bench in Sunday’s win. His performance may have instantly earned him the new title of fan favorite and Celtics broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn may just have to replace his famous “I love Waltah” saying with “I love Leon!”
Although the Celtics came away with an impressive win and head out to LA with a nice 2-0 cushion in the series, lots can be learned from the teams effort, or lack there of at times.
With 7:55 remaining in the game, the Celtics led by 24 points (96-73) and it appeared they would coast to another homecourt win. The purple and yellow jerseys scattered throughout the TD Banknorth Garden began turning around for the exits, probably hoping to catch the red eye back to LA. Over the next 7 minutes, the Lakers went on a serious tear, outscoring Boston 29-8 to make it a 2 point game with 38 seconds left to play.
“We’re happy because we won, but we definitely learned a lesson,” Paul Pierce said.
Aside from Powe’s impressive night, the Celtics were again led by Pierce who finished the game with 28 points and 8 assists. From behind the arc, Pierce was 4-4 on the night and didn’t look at all phased from his Game 1 knee injury. He made a key drive to the hoop with 23 seconds left to play in the game and was fouled hard. Once composed, he confidently stepped up to the line and nailed both free throws to secure a Celtics victory.
The Lakers comeback was too little too late but showed the Celtics that this series is going to be a fight until the end.
“We’ve got to play through the game for 48 minutes, and I didn’t think we did that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we got cute when we got the lead.”
Call Rivers captain obvious, but if the Celtics plan on winning in LA, they will need to protect any lead they can get. The environment will be hostile, the calls will not be going their way, and lets face it, Kobe will not shoot as poorly as he did in the first two games of the Finals.
Bryant finished Game 2 with 30 points on an 11-23 shooting performance but did not come out of his shell until the 4th quarter where he dropped 13 points leading the Lakers comeback.
“We’ve come too far to really sweat being down 2-0,” said Bryant, who scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. “We’re going to go home and handle our business.”
Looking at the box score, one stat that sticks out is the discrepancy in each team’s amount of attempted free throws. Boston got to the charity stripe 38 times compared to LA’s 10 attempts. For the Celtics, Powe actually had more attempts then the entire Lakers team, converting on 9 of 13 foul shots.
“I’ve never seen a game like that in all these years I’ve coached in the finals,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who is going for his 10th title in 11 finals appearances. “Unbelievable.”
Well Phil, believe it. Your team is now in an 0-2 hole that only three teams have ever been able to come back from to win a championship (Boston in 1969, Portland in 1977 and Miami in 2006). Your fearless leader in Kobe Bryant has done nothing but cry to officials which may or may not cost him some of those hometown calls you’re hoping for. Not to mention you’re team is letting the likes of Leon Powe score on uncontested dunks and coast to coast drives. Nothing against Powe, he’s my boy, but come on!
So far, the NBA Finals have been nothing but business for Boston and they aren’t about to let a different time zone change any of that.
“We’re not settling on a 2-0 lead,” Garnett said. “We want to go out there and win two games in L.A.”
Game 3 of the NBA Finals tips off Tuesday evening at 9:00pm EST.
And so, for the Boston Celtics, their quest for GREEN 17 continues. Next stop: Los Angeles. The only thing left to be said…BEAT L.A.!
With 6:49 remaining on the game clock in the 3rd quarter Thursday night, the TD Banknorth Garden grew very quiet. It was an awkward silence that sent chills down the spines of onlookers all around the city. Paul Pierce, the Celtics fearless leader, was down for the count with what appeared to be a serious knee injury and it didn’t look like he’d be getting up anytime soon. Boston fans feared the worst and knew that without ‘The Truth’ the 11th finals match up between Boston and Los Angeles was all but over.
As if scripted out of a Rocky movie, not only did Pierce get up when everyone knew he was in serious anguish, he delivered the knockout like blow by nailing back to back 3-point field goals in a 22-second span late in the 3rd quarter that gave the Boston Celtics the lead for good en route to their 98-88 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
The storied match up between the two most successful franchises in NBA history lived up to everything you thought it would in a game that featured 12 ties and 21 lead changes. With future hall-of-famers up and down both line ups, the excitement of fans was reminiscent to only that of Game 1 of the 2004 MLB World Series.
“I think this is a great thing not just for the NBA, but just for sports in general,” Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. “I think it’s a great thing when the best gets a chance to compete against the best, and whoever comes out on top, they earned it. I think both teams should be proud to be here.”
Fisher led the Lakers to a 51-46 first half lead scoring 13 points by the break but would only finish the 15 points on the night. His stat line was very similar to that of Rajon Rondo of the Celtics. Both PG’s finished with 15 points, while Rondo notched 7 assists compared to Fisher’s 6. Rondo would also one-upped Fisher in the rebound category grabbing 5, one more then Fisher’s 4 boards.
Kobe Bryant, the NBA’s reigning MVP, was held to 24 points on a 9-26 shooting performance. The majority of his shots were good looks that just weren’t going down. Ray Allen and Pierce both did an excellent job of trying to always have one hand in his face, limiting the wide open looks that the superstar knocks down with ease.
Besides Pierce’s heroic performance of 22 points (19 in the 2nd half), Kevin Garnett contributed to the win in a big way. KG recorded his 12th double-double of the ’08 playoffs scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He slammed home the victory with an emphatic dunk off of a James Posey miss that brought the Garden crowd to their feet with 1:32 to play in the game and gave the Celtics their largest lead at the time putting them ahead 94-86.
Rounding out the ‘Big Three’, Allen also hit some clutch shots and finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds, but the big story on the night was still how Pierce managed to single handedly rejuvenate his team and home town crowd, making them all believers that Boston can win this series.
As Pierce jogged onto the court from the locker room with a black elastic wrap on his injured knee, Garnett clinched a fist and screamed, “Yes!”
“He was walking, he was up on his own strength and he rejuvenated us,” said Garnett, “He gave everybody life.”
Bottom line, Pierce’s performance was gutsy and will go down as just another magical moment to add to the countless number of highlights that already exist in the Celtics vs. Lakers finals rivalry. Shots of him being carried off the floor by teammates, to then only minutes later walk right past coach Doc Rivers to check himself back into the game will air next to those of Magic Johnson’s baby hook shot or Kevin McHale’s clothesline of Kurt Rambis in a montage that will remind generation after generation just how exciting this rivalry really is.
“I think God sent an angel down and said, ‘Hey you’re going to be all right. You need to get back out there’,” Pierce said.
There’s a very good chance that angel may have very well been smoking a cigar and the Celtics biggest fan.
Thanks Red, hope you’re enjoying the best seats in the house.
About one year ago this time, things weren’t looking so hot for the Boston Celtics organization. Boston was coming off a 24-58 season that included a streak of 18 consecutive losses, the death of franchise legend Red Auerbach and the 2nd worst record in the NBA that only resulted in the 5th overall lottery selection.
The Los Angeles Lakers franchise was also in the midst of much turmoil just having been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the 2nd straight season, with superstar guard Kobe Bryant demanding a trade publicly from the front office executives immediately.
How quickly things can change.
The two historic organizations find themselves in the 2008 NBA Finals, facing each other in the championship for the 11th time. The Celtics hold the 8-2 edge in head to head series play but the Lakers have captured the last two match ups in 1985 and 1987.
This rivalry has made the NBA what it is today. The Bird vs. Magic era brought excitement to the league like there had never been before and now both teams are loaded with future hall of famers and leaders like Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.
Last summer, the two NBA All-Stars were playing pickup ball together at UCLA’s gym. Both were frustrated with the outcome of their seasons and knew that trade talks would be likely for both of them.
“I remember being in the gym with Kobe, and me and him were arguing over who was going to get traded first,” Pierce said Monday after the Celtics held their first practice in preparation for the NBA finals.
“He went public about getting traded, … and I was like, ‘Shoot, I’m going to getting traded before you,’ and betting that it would happen. That’s what so crazy, now we’re both here sitting in the finals, where a year ago we were both in the gym.”
Big reasons why both players find themselves 4 wins away from a championship are the acquisitions that were made to get their teams to where they are today. For the Celtics, the important moves were made before the season while the Lakers pulled some strings right at the trade deadline.
Boston acquired SG Ray Allen on draft day via trade and then shortly after made a 7 for 1 player swap to package former league MVP Kevin Garnett into beantown as the newest member to the Celtics organization. And as they say, the rest is history. Combined with the force of Pierce, the three have reenergized basketball fans in Boston for the first time since the mid 80′s. As for the Lakers, they were able to trade for All-Star PF Pau Gasol right before the trade deadline for almost nothing. His acquisition has sparked a 2nd half turnaround that put LA atop the Western Conference.
After the Celtics downed the Detroit Pistons in six games and the Lakers took care of the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in five, the stage is set for what many are calling the best Finals match up in over 25 years.
Lets take a look at the probable match ups between teams and which club has the advantage at each position.
At points guard the Celtics will go with Rajon Rondo and he will be matched up against veteran Derek Fisher. Fisher certainly wins some points for experience but Rondo has been more of a contributing factor offensively dishing out assists and scoring big buckets when needed. The best part about this match up is that if Rondo needs a quick blow, veteran back up Sam Cassell will step right in and provide the veteran experience that Rondo lacks to equal that of Fishers.
ADVANTAGE – BOS
The most important match up of the series will be at the shooting guard position featuring two of the NBA’s premiere perimeter players in Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. Both can flat out shoot the ball and anything within a few steps over the half court line is in their range. Allen’s defense can be suspect at times due to ankle problems, while Kobe has been on the NBA’s Defensive 1st team multiple times. Allen will not be the only one covering the reigning MVP, look for some help from fellow wingman Paul Pierce but their job will be simple, hold Kobe to his averages and let the other Lakers beat you.
ADVANTAGE – L.A.
While Paul Pierce is not helping out with Bryant he’ll have his hands full guarding Lamar Odom. This match up will create problems for both sides because at 6’10″ tall, Odom has a 4 inch height advantage and will try to post up his smaller defender when the opportunity presents itself. However, Pierce has the speed advantage and will create for himself opportunities to take the ball to the hole off the dribble which could put LA’s big men in foul trouble.
ADVANTAGE – EVEN
When it comes to Kevin Garnett, it really does not matter who’s covering him because he’s going to have the advantage regardless. The Lakers will send Vladimir Radmanovic for some KG duty but as we saw in both the Cleveland and Detroit series, it doesn’t matter who’s covering the big man because he can beat you in the paint or from the outside with his 18+ foot jumpers all night long.
ADVANTAGE – BOS
The match up at the center position between Kendrick Perkins and Pau Gasol could be a big factor one of the series. Perkins showed Boston fans that he’s capable of being a beast on the boards against Detroit when he hauled down 16 rebounds and dropped 18 points in their Game 5 win. Gasol lifted LA with a similar effort in their Game 5 win grabbing 19 boards and scoring 12 points. Gasol does have a little better offensive touch then Perkins which makes him more a threat in the paint.
ADANTAGE – LA
The series gets underway on Thursday night in Boston at 9:00pm EST. The home court advantage that the Celtics earned during the regular season may be a huge factor with possible Games 6 & 7 to be played at the TD Banknorth Garden in front of the hometown crowd. LA, who has yet to lose a playoff game at home, will try to steal one of the road before returning home for Games 3, 4 and if needed 5.
As the Lakers go for their 15th banner and the Celtics quest for Green 17 continues one thing that is certain, this match up has the potential to be one of the greatest of all time and all we can do now is enjoy every minute of it.
Celtics vs Lakers NBA Finals tickets now available.
It’s always nice to have the luxury of three all-stars in your starting line up but its even nicer when those all-stars combine to score 78 points in the biggest game of the year to date. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have individually had their struggles in the 2008 playoffs but Wednesday night they put the past behind them. The ‘Big Three’ put forth one of their most impressive outings as a trio during the Boston Celtics 106-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics now hold a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 6 on the horizon in Detroit on Friday night.
“We knew the significance of this game,” said Garnett, who dropped 33 in the win, the most he’s scored in the playoffs this year. “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.”
Ahead by as many as 17 points in the 2nd half, the Celtics looked like they would coast to victory but the stingy Pistons defense began to slowly whittle away the lead, capitalizing on turnovers and missed free throws. Leading the charge was veteran point guard Chauncey Billups who scored 26 points in the game on a 7 for 17 shooting performance in the loss.
“The good thing about it is we’re going home,” said Billups, who took the ball to the basket twice in the final 10 seconds trying to draw a foul that was never called. “We’ve been here before, and we don’t like being in this position, but we’ve fought hard.”
The shot of the night came from Allen who nailed a bucket from the deep corner of the floor right in front of the Pistons bench with less then 2 seconds remaining on the shot clock and only 1:02 left on the game clock. The basket pulled the Celtics ahead 102-99 and sent the TD Banknorth Garden crowd to their feet in jubilation. On the night Allen scored 29 points and was 5-6 from 3-point land.
“My feeling right now is no different than if I scored 10 points and we won the game. It’s a great feeling,” Allen said. “Just winning gives me the greatest joy, regardless of what I’ve done.”
Rounding out the ‘Big Three’, Pierce chipped in scoring 16 points but contributed in a big way by playing great defense on Tayshaun Prince, holding the wingman to only 8 points on the night.
Aside for the trio of all-stars, the rest of Boston’s starting 5 also played outstanding basketball. Starting PG Rajon Rondo dished out 13 assists while scoring 7 points in the win. Kendrick Perkins notched a double-double in the first half alone, actually out rebounding the entire Pistons team at the break 13 to 11. He finished the game with 18 points and 16 boards and understands the importance of winning right now.
“I know our Big Three veteran guys. I know this opportunity doesn’t come much,” Perkins said. “I knew if I was up in age, up in my 30s, and a young fellow was there I’d want him to go all-out for me, too.”
The only Celtics points not scored by a starter came from James Posey’s 3-point field goal with 9:54 left in the 4th quarter making the score at the time 89-78.
The Celtics find themselves now only one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1987 season. Rondo and reserve Glen Davis were 1 year old when that last happened.
One thing is certain, if the ‘Big Three’ continue to play the way they did in Game 5, the Celtics quest for Green 17 could very well become a reality, but first they have to find a way to win one more time against Detroit before sending the team back to the NBA Finals for the first time since the original Big Three were in town.
With the Lakers up 3-1 over the Spurs, the possibility of a Celtics vs Lakers Finals is growing more likely.
The numbers don’t lie, the Boston Celtics shooting performance in Monday night’s 94-75 loss to the Detroit Pistons in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was awful, and that might even be giving them too much credit.
As a team, Boston was a pathetic 21 of 66 from the floor for a .318 shooting percentage on the night. Of those 21 field goals, 11 were either dunks or layups which means that as a team they shot even worse from outside the paint (10-55 for a .182 shooting percentage). Those numbers are reminiscent of a middle school girl’s rec. basketball game, and unfortunately for the C’s that’s exactly how they played.
“We didn’t play well, but we hung in there by getting to the foul line,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Then, we just couldn’t make plays.”
If it weren’t for the charity stripe, this game could have been one of the biggest playoff blow outs in years. The Celtics we fortunate enough to get to the line 39 times during the night and connected on 32 of those attempts. Other then that, there wasn’t much happening for the team that finished the regular season with the NBA best record.
“They bumped us off spots and were more physical and aggressive all night,” Rivers said. “Usually the winner is the team that was more aggressive. They had a no-layup rule and that’s why we made it to the line so much.”
Before the first TV timeout, the Celtics were already trailing by double digits as the Pistons jumped ahead early scoring the games first 10 points in under 3 minutes. After the early run, Boston was forced to claw back but strong offensive nights by Rip Hamilton (20) and Antonio McDyess (21) were too much to overcome down the stretch.
“You only have so many opportunities, and they’re limited, especially for me,” McDyess said. “I’m at the end of my career, and I just feel like leaving everything out on the floor.” His teammates have recognized that he’s playing with the passion and desire to win like never before. McDyess was not part of the Pistons championship team in 2004 and wants so badly to be a contributing member of a team that can win it all.
“Dice has been our best player in the postseason, and we’re all feeding off his energy,” teammate and close friend Chauncey Billups said who scored 10 points on the game. “You see how hard he is working, and you can’t help but play hard.”
On the other end of the court, the Celtics Big Three struggled from the floor all night long. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett combined to go 11 for 38 from the field, the trio’s worst performance together in the playoffs. Pierce and Garnett each scored 16 points and Allen netted 11 but none of them were ever able to get it going and catch fire from the field.
“We pride ourselves on making our teammates better and allowing them to make us better,” Allen said.
Allen had been going through a large shooting slump entering the series but after an impressive Game 2 shooting performance, many believed he’d be able to turn in back on for the remainder of the Conference Finals. He’s averaging just less than 15 points a game for the series but still looks a little gun shy behind the arc.
As the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5, the attention of many will refocus on the Celtics defending their home court as they had done so well for the first 9 games on the playoffs. Detroit handed them their first defeat of the postseason at home in Game 2 last Thursday, but now the Celtics look to rebound for another win in front of the Boston crowds.
Boston has not lost back-to-back home games since mid March when they fell to Utah before going on the Texas road trip where they beat the Spurs, Rockets and Mavericks only to return home and fall to Philadelphia in their first game back.
For the Celtics to win this series they need to not repeat the shooting performance, or lack there of, from last nights game. This team is just full of too many talented players to be shooting anywhere under .400 percent from the floor every game. They need to go back to the tapes from Games 1 and 3 and realize that making the extra pass on the offensive end works. It tires the defense and creates better looks at the hoop for more players.
This Detroit team is very beatable. The Celtics just need to forget about their Game 4 display and get ready to defend their home court advantage once again on Wednesday. With the series knotted at 2-2, it now becomes a best of 3 match up, and if the Celtics can just manage to win at home, they will be heading to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987.
Celtics vs Pistons Tickets are still available for Game 5!
It had been almost 2 months since the Boston Celtics suffered a loss on their home court. Thursday night, the Detroit Pistons reminded them just what it felt like; by beating the C’s 103-97 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals match up at the TD Banknorth Garden.
The loss snapped a 9-game playoff win streak at home and a 15-game win streak dating back to the regular season. Their last loss at the Garden came at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers on March 24th. Head coach Doc Rivers knows that his team will have to capture at least one victory on the road now to advance to the NBA Finals.
“I fully believe, and I’ve said many times, at some point we’re going to have to win on the road,” Rivers said. “We’ve gotten away with it thus far. That’s been taken away. And if we want what we want, we have to win on the road and that’s just the way it is.”
Boston’s Big Three did all that they could to try and pull off the win but got very little support from the rest of the line-up which ultimately cost them the game. Paul Pierce (26), Kevin Garnett (24) and Ray Allen (25) accounted for 75 of the teams 97 points. The Pistons used a balanced offensive attack with six players scoring in double figures including all of the starting five.
“It is even,” Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace said. “We don’t sit back and say, ‘Oh, look. They are undefeated at home,’ or ‘They didn’t win a game on the road.’ … A lot of the teams they played in the postseason and the regular season were scared of them, as far as KG and Ray and Paul. They are good players, but we have good players, also.”
Unlike Game 1, last night’s tempo was much more upbeat and both teams tried to run the ball and transition for fast break points. The Pistons did this more effectively behind the reigns of veteran PG Chauncey Billups who finished with 19 points and 7 assists. Teammate Richard Hamilton (25 points, 4 assists) wanted to make sure Billups was in the right state of mind for Game 2 after a sub par performance in the series opener.
“One thing I told Chaunce, you ain’t got to be overaggressive out there,” Hamilton said. “You can take your time and be the captain of our ship, and we’ll try to do a good job of helping you out.”
As the series now shifts to Detroit, the big question that everyone’s asking is can the Celtics win on the road? During the regular season they had no trouble away from Boston and actually had the NBA’s best road record. Since then it’s been a different story. The C’s are 0-6 away from home during the 2008 playoffs, and now will be forced to take at least one game on the road from the Pistons to win the series.
The first thing that needs to occur for them to be successful away from Boston is they need more production and better minutes from their bench. Guys like James Posey, Eddie House and Leon Powe need to step it up. All three of those guys are very capable of dropping 8-12 points a game. Last night the three combined for only 3 points on a Posey 3-point FG.
A great sign for the Celtics was seeing Allen find his shooting touch again after a prolonged slump that last over 3 weeks. He needs to continue to feel it from behind the arc so that the Pistons are forced to pull defenders from the middle to cover him on the perimeter, which will then open up the paint for guys like KG and Kendrick Perkins.
Another key to winning on the road for the Celtics will be to maintain their composure. Calls aren’t going to be going their way, the crowd will be loud and it can get intimidating but it’s very important for them to stay focused. The Pistons are going to be fired up and the Celtics will need to match that intensity.
“The atmosphere’s going to be crazy,” Hamilton said. “We’re geeked about getting back to our home court. The fans are excited, and now it’s our job to take care of home court.”
It is now the Celtics turn to play the role of the spoiler as they hope to take one if not both of the games in Detroit over the holiday weekend. The Big Three needs to continue to dominate and can only hope that the rest of their teammates pick up the slack a bit from their output in Game 2.
“We have no choice now but to get it done on the road,” Pierce said.
They did it all during the regular season and the time has come where they will now have to find a way to do it again. Their quest for Green 17 continues, next stop Detroit City.
The Eastern Conference Finals are underway and after another big performance by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics captured a Game 1 win by the score of 88-79 to take a 1-0 series lead over the Detroit Pistons. The victory improves the C’s playoff home record to a perfect 9-0 and they continue to excel defensively holding opponents to a 79.2 points per game average at the TD Banknorth Garden.
“The defensive pressure was fantastic,” gushed Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Offensively, we made the extra pass. The ball kept moving, finding the open guy, and that’s how we have to play.”
The Celtics team that showed up to play last night reminded everyone watching of the ball club that won 66 games during the regular season, breezed to the best record in the NBA and was a supposed lock to represent the East in the NBA Finals. It’s been three weeks since anyone had seen any sign of that team, but they definitely came out to play in the yesterdays dominating victory.
After a 41 point performance in Sunday’s Game 7 against Cleveland, Pierce picked up where he left off pouring in 22 points on 9-18 shooting, grabbing 6 boards and dishing out 6 assists for an impressive all around effort. No one on the Pistons lineup matches up well against him and ‘the truth’ was able to pick apart each defender by varying his shot selection with baseline fade away jumpers, free throw extended set shots and open looks on the wing. When defenders started to cheat closer trying to get the extra step, he’d slash to the basket which would result in either a bucket, a foul or defensive help opening up a shot for a teammate.
“You got Detroit coming in, well-rested,” Pierce said. “This was the perfect game for them to come in and try to steal one, and we were aware of that. They probably figured we were tired while they’ve been practicing. And we just came out with extra focus and extra energy at the start of the game.”
Speaking of extra energy, Garnett came out of the gates looking like he had been hooked up all day to a Red Bull I.V. drip. The defensive player of the year hit his first three shots from the floor, pounded his chest after every basket and screaming to the Boston fans fueling their energy for the rest of the game. KG finished the game with 26 points and 9 rebounds in 38 minutes of action.
“We just didn’t seem to be in a good flow, it might have had something to do with (the layoff). We were just a step slow,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “We didn’t get into the flow.”
Veteran guard Ray Allen has gotten used to the routine of playing every other day and thinks that it is working towards the Celtics advantage. “You have to figure, doing this every other day, you just get used to the same routine of coming out, being out this late, playing basketball,” Allen said. “I think when you get that break in between, you have to build yourself back up into it.”
Unlike some games in the first two playoffs series, the Celtics really had control of this one all throughout. They jumped out to an early 8-0 lead and then played the type of basketball that everyone expected to see in the playoffs, a team oriented style of play. Players were making the extra pass to find an open teammate and not forcing shots. The end result, 27 assists and a .522 shooting percentage from the floor.
If the Celtics can put up those types of numbers every game, next week the Pistons will be golfing while the C’s will be the team getting the week long layoff before the NBA finals begin on June 5th.
There’s only one thing that needs to take place for that to happen that has yet to… Boston needs to win on the road. They currently hold a 0-6 mark when playing away from the Garden but hope to turn it around this weekend when they head to Detroit for games 3 and 4 of the series.
Before they ship out of Boston, there is still work to be done in Game 2. The Celtics look to stay perfect at home while the Pistons will do everything in their power to stop the home win streak right where it is.
The players will be fired up, the Garden will be fired up and you should be fired up as the Celtics continue their quest for Green 17.
Celtics Tickets are still available for Game 2!
After yet another prolonged seven game series, the Boston Celtics are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 6 years. Their opponents, the Detroit Pistons, are no strangers to the finals having made it there for the 6th consecutive season. The match up is set, the stakes are high and both teams are prepared for an all out war that will feature the two teams with the best regular season records in the NBA. It doesn’t get much better then this!
Through the first two rounds of the 2008 NBA Playoffs, it’s very clear that winning at home has been the key to most team’s success. For Boston, it has been a necessity. The Celts are 8-0 at home, 0-6 on the road and are clearly struggling to find the identity of the regular season team’s alter ego that had the best road record in the league. Detroit already has captured 3 road wins during the postseason and was the team that handed Boston their first home loss during the regular season as well.
“That’s a big plus for us that we have won there in a season that they won most of their home games,” Chauncey Billups of the Piston said. “We know we’re a great road team in anybody’s building and that’s to our advantage. Our whole mind-set is to go there and win Game 1.”
The Celtics are just looking to continue to win at home, even though they know they are up against a very fierce competitor.
“I think we probably will be the underdog,” Paul Pierce said, “knowing that Detroit has been there. They won a championship with this group and are used to going to the Eastern Conference finals and this is just our first trip.”
What Pierce is referring to is that Detroit returns a group of players that has already been in the big game together while this Celtics lineup has only been playing with each other since November. Guys like Billups, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have been here through their run of dominance in the East while all of the Celtics, besides Pierce, have never been in the Eastern Conference Finals for this club.
Both teams come into the series featuring very similar strengths including deep benches, strong defensive units and a balanced offensive attack. The Celtics will be relying on Pierce to step it up during the series the same way he did in Game 7 against Cleveland when he scored 41 points. Kevin Garnett will also be a main option but will have to work a little harder for his points than he had to against the Cavs slower post players. Rasheed Wallace will most likely be matching up against KG creating a great match up of veterans.
Another key match up that could be the determining factor in which team has the edge offensively will feature Rajon Rondo and Billups. The veteran Billups had big games against the Celtics during the regular season while Rondo looked overmatched and timid. Boston acquired Sam Cassell for this reason and over the past two months the duo has worked out very well with Cassell bringing leadership and experience to the table to compliment Rondo’s instinctive and defensive skills.
Look for all of these games to be relatively low scoring. Do not expect to see games in the 100′s, unless you’re thinking about an overtime period, which is very possible with the way these two clubs will battle each other. The Celtics have been holding opponents to 79.2 points a game in Boston during the playoffs. The Pistons have been equally as impressive holding opponents to 85 points a game at home. If either team could steal a victory on the road it would improve there chances of winning the series tenfold.
Ray Allen is looking at the series as an opportunity to do something special, and he doesn’t want to let this chance slip away. After going through two 7-game series, critics are wondering if guys like Allen will be fatigued on the road, but he knows that won’t be the case.
“We’ve learned a lot about each other. It’s good for us because as a team this is our first time together,” Allen said. “Our valleys that we’re going through, seven games, adversity on the road. All that stuff that people say is a reason why we won’t win, it’s a reason why we will win.”
The Pistons have not played since last Tuesday (5/13) when they eliminated the Orlando Magic in 5 games and are very well rested, maybe even too well rested. The layoff is the longest they’ve had all season long, including the all-star break, so some wonder if they will be able to come out tonight and perform at the same level that they did a week ago.
When asked if he’d rather the rest or the quick turnaround, Allen said, “I would rather have the rhythm of regular competition than extra rest, because with the rhythm you don’t have to guess from one day to the next about how you’ll play.”
It all starts tonight. The Celtics quest for Green 17 continues while the Pistons look to bring home their 2nd title of the decade. It’s going to be fun and my only advice for the series, don’t blink.
Celtics Playoff tickets are available for all potential games.