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May 31, 2008

1980's Celtics Lakers ABC NBA Finals

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

With the Boston Celtics win in Game 6 in Detroit, the Celtics will move on to face the champion of the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers. Old school 1980's NBA fans will be savoring this matchup, as will David Stern and the NBA office once the ratings come out for the upcoming NBA Finals :) . Enough about that matchup for now; Game 1 is Thursday Night so we have plenty of time to talk about the NBA Finals buildup in the coming days.

Game 6 in Detroit was being controlled by Boston, but the Pistons made a 2nd half run to take the lead for the first time since very early in the game. However towards the end of that second half, some calls went the Celtics way and Rasheed Wallace had to sit on the bench with 5 fouls. The tide began to turn as Detroit began missing shots, making turnovers, committing fouls, etc. Paul Pierce then helped take control in the fourth as the Celtics outscored Detroit 29-13 in the 4th quarter to win 89-81.

Kevin Garnett was held to 8 points 1 rebound even into the third quarter, but he came on in the 4th quarter as well to knock down some shots and at least produce 16 points 5 rebs 4 assists. Ray Allen strangely had an average game (he has either been dreadfully bad, or he puts up 25+ points) dropping in 17 points on 3 / 8 three point shooting.

A very disappointing loss for the Detroit Pistons as they are only 2-4 in Conference Finals despite making it to the past 6 Eastern Conference Finals. Chauncey Billups fought through his leg injury to put up 29 points 6 rebounds 6 assists with no turnovers. Rip Hamilton was hurt with the elbow and was unsure about playing, but he came out to produce 21 points himself with a sleek 9 / 14 FG's from the floor.

The Pistons were sunk though with the performance of their other star players. Rasheed Wallace is a guy they need to be a factor and he was 2 / 12 from the floor, 0 / 6 from the 3pt line, for a pathetic 4 points and 3 turnovers. Tayshaun Prince was not better, shooting 3 / 10 from the floor for 10 points. These two have been inconsistent and the Pistons have still won at times, but it requires other players like Antonio McDyess to step up with monster efforts (who also had an off game with 6 pts 6 rebs in almost 40 minutes). Even Rodney Stuckey who had been a bench bright spot, was 1 / 5 in Game 6 for 4 points.

Heading into the offseason, the Pistons are in a position similar to the San Antonio Spurs who were just eliminated themselves. Both have veteran cores that have seen better days, but they are not at the point of a full rebuilding mode just yet. These teams have been great in part to their brilliant front office's so one would expect them to be able to retool and still make some noise.

The Detroit Pistons are doing a better job than the Spurs developing talent with Jason Maxiell coming along nicely, and really should be playing more for Rasheed Wallace and definitely should be taking Theo Ratliff's minutes. Stuckey has shown that he is playoff-ready should one of the guards depart or tail off, but it is unlikely. Players such as Billups who do not rely on athleticism age well moving into the latter parts of their career. Another stud on the Pistons bench is Amir Johnson, who has tore up D leagues in the past.

Definitely a bitter defeat for the Detroit Pistons at home in Game 6. Now the Los Angeles Lakers fly to the Boston Garden to take on the Boston Celtics Thursday Night on ABC.

Will Garnett / Allen / Pierce get their rings? Or will the MVP get his 4th? As a believer in the Western Conference every year, my money is on MVP Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers in 6 games.

May 30, 2008

Celtics edge Pistons in Game 5 win

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AP Photo / Winslow Townson

In a highly contested Game 5, the Boston Celtics came out the victor at home to take a 3-2 series lead. The series moves to Detroit for a Game 6 on Friday but there are some important variables to look at before that.

Richard Hamilton scored 25 points 4 rebounds 6 assists 2 steals with an efficient shooting night in Game 5 but Rip also hurt his elbow at the end of the game. Hamilton was in a lot of pain so it remains to be seen if Hamilton will play in Game 6 as he is questionable with that elbow as of right now.

Chauncey Billups had a bounce back game with 26 points albeit on 7 / 17 shooting, but seeing him hit big 3 point shots down the stretch was a great sign for the Pistons. Rasheed Wallace also banged home 6 three points for 18 points but had some choice comments after the game. He went off on the officials in this game as the flopping got a little out of hand and there were a lot of soft touch foul calls on the Pistons. Of course Rasheed was fined 25,000$ for opening his mouth but you have to respect a guy who tells it like it is even when he knows it's going to cost him money.

The Boston Celtics were fortunate enough to get a monster performance from Kendrick Perkins with 18 points 16 rebounds 2 steals 2 blocks. With the attention the Big Three on Boston require, Perkins was able to get 5 offensive rebounds and easy baskets, making 8 out of 11 shots.

Ray Allen also decided to break out once more. He had a spectacular Game 2 and then went back to the Ray Allen of the 2008 NBA Playoffs by shooting about 33% the next two games. In Game 5 Ray Allen got hot, getting some easy baskets and 5 three pointers for 29 points on the night. This was needed because Paul Pierce had a so-so offensive game with 16 points to go with 4 rebounds and 5 assists.

Kevin Garnett has another lights out game with 33 points 7 rebounds and he even hit a three pointer. Best yet Garnett shot 10 / 12 free throws and 11 /' 17 from the floor. This type of efficiency creates so many easy baskets not only for himself but for Perkins and creates space for Allen to shoot.

Game 6 largely will depend on the health of the Pistons. With a healthy Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, expect a gutty effort from the Pistons in a Game 6 win. If Hamilton cannot go or is ineffective, the Celtics proved they are capable of winning in Detroit.

May 23, 2008

Detroit Pistons win in Boston Garden

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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

After the Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 ended and Boston had managed to hold off Detroit, I mentioned that road teams would be a lot more successful in this series.

Sure enough, the Detroit Pistons then take Game 2 in the Boston Garden and the series is 1-1. The score was close at 103-97 Detroit, but towards the end the Pistons kept a healthy two-possession or more lead by converting nifty plays on offense. A Ray Allen three pushed it to a three point lead but Rip Hamilton made a floater at the end of the shot clock, and then Billups made a layup after a time out and that was about it.

A game before the Pistons looked out of sync, shooting .424 from the field and rarely making aggressive trips to the line. The Detroit Pistons in Game 2 did what good jump shooting teams need to do; move the ball and find the open man. More importantly the open men shot with confidence, as the Pistons were close to shooting 50% from the field. They picked up more fouls and hit their shots at a 28 / 32 clip (.875%).

The guards led the way for Detroit. Chauncey Billups had a much more effective Game 2. He still looks a little hobbled physically but he has been able to assert his will with efficient shooting and playmaking. Flip Saunders likes the 7 assists 0 turnovers, and Billups was healthy enough to get to the line 8 times making 7 of the shots.

Rip Hamilton punched in a team high 25 points with 10 / 12 free throws being made. Rip had a slick floater at the end of a shot clock in the 4th quarter - it was that type of night for Detroit. Even Rodney Stuckey put up big numbers considering he only played 17 minutes and finished with 13 points 3 assists 2 steals.

The Pistons got numbers from only 6 people but that is par for the course in Detroit, except a 7th player like Maxiell usually contributes a bit more. It was more telling for the Boston Celtics who have been relying on their bench production throughout the year, despite having the Big Three. Game 2 actually was one of the few times the Big Three were all contributing with 20+ points.

That is because Ray Allen broke out of his shooting funk, as he had 25 points in 29 minutes on 50%+ shooting. He even hit a few threes. If there is a silver lining despite the loss at home, this would be it. If Ray Allen can contribute with perimeter shooting that will be a big help in opening up the Celtic offense. Kevin Garnett had another solid 24 point 13 rebound 2 block game and Pierce led the team again with 26 points.

However there were only 3 field goals by the bench, 2 of which are from PJ Brown who has found the fountain of youth. James Posey's 1 / 5 night from the three point line did not help. With Eddie House's struggles look for the Celtics to consider bringing back Sam Cassell to play more minutes, even though he had been supplanted due to his poor performance early in the playoffs against Atlanta. The Big Three in Boston need some help and it's going to have to come from the bench or with improved offensive play by Rondo or Perkins.

This win puts Detroit in a great position heading into Game 3. The Celtics have been teetering on the brink of elimination and can no longer hang their head on their home court performance. They will have to win a road game now to regain home court, and despite coming close on a few occasions earlier in the playoffs, this will still be a tall hurdle to clear for the Celtics. Returning to Boston for Game 5, the Celtics are aiming to steal one game in Detroit and bring it back 2-2. Meanwhile the Pistons are looking for an opportunity to take the next two home games for a 3-1 series lead.

Game 3 is Saturday Night at 7:30pm in Detroit.

May 21, 2008

Boston wins ECF Game 1 versus Detroit

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Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The home dominance of the Boston Celtics continues as they are now 9-0 at home and 0-6 on the road in the 2007-2008 Playoffs. The Detroit Pistons looked like a team that had a few too many days off, while the Boston Celtics did not look fatigued but instead in a flow from their Game 7 victory over Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Despite being a solid, road-tested playoff team, the Detroit Pistons shoot a lot of jump shots. In Game 1 against Boston they had an even tougher time getting to the basket, but they at least managed to pick up 6 more foul shots than the Celtics.

Kevin Garnett really imposed his will on Rasheed Wallace on both ends of the floor, putting up 26 points 9 rebounds 4 assists 2 blocks on a spectacular 11 / 17 performance from the field. In earlier games (notably on the road), Garnett seemed tentative to be aggressive attacking the rim instead of taking jump shots. After his 40 point performance, Paul Pierce had a solid night with 22 points on 50% shooting but missed all four threes he took. Ray Allen continues to struggle with his shot, shooting 3 / 10 with nary a three pointer. Doc Rivers continues to play him 40 minutes a game but it seems to be too much of a liability offensively even if he is performing well on defense.

Rajon Rondo fought Chauncey Billups all night long, recording 5 steals and holding Chauncey to just 9 points. But Billups only has 6 attempts shooting so his right hamstring is probably still an issue.

With Chauncey just coming back it was clear from the start that it was going to take some time for the Pistons to get their chemistry back. Besides Rasheed's matchup against KG, none of the Pistons played particularly bad and the game was close in the 4th quarter. Still, expect Detroit to bounce back and play a much more competitive Game 2. While home court has proved vital in the playoffs thus far, expect a few surprising road wins in this series.