This is the silliest thing anyone can say and I'm just the one to say it: The Celtics are in fine shape. Nothing for the Bostonians to worry about. (Yet.)
I know the Celtics blew it 103-97 in Game 2 Thursday for their first home loss in 16 games since late March, and I know what that means. It means the worst road team in the playoffs -- the only franchise to reach the second round or beyond without winning a game away from home -- will have to go to Detroit this long weekend and win. It looks to me as if that's exactly what is going to happen.
This series is going to a Game 7. The Celtics are going to win at least one of the next two games in Detroit and then the Pistons may yet win another game here. This rivalry is going to transcend its surroundings.
Already we're seeing it bring out the best in everybody.
They lost because the Pistons are the Pistons: They couldn't afford to go to Detroit down 0-2 and so they hit close to a dozen enormous jump shots at pivotal times to stave off the beginnings of many unarticulated Celtic runs. Detroit is a share-the-wealth team and on Thursday its strength outmuscled the performance of Boston's big three as a half-dozen Pistons -- that's right, six of them -- scored in double figures, from
The most impressive performance was by
But on the first possession of the game he showed an entirely different side to the Celtics -- i.e. his backside as he burst left past Celtic point guard
"One thing I told Chauncey 'You ain't got to be overaggressive out there,''' said Hamilton. "'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.'''
In those rare fourth-quarter moments when their offense wasn't finishing as planned, Pistons managed to recover a number of offensive rebounds. Which they converted.
When Billups wasn't on the floor, the Pistons were getting veteran minutes from the rookie Stuckey. Detroit's year-long investment in its young bench paid off after Stuckey opened the fourth quarter by being stripped from behind by Rondo. Instead of being unnerved by that moment, he responded with a run of huge baskets: a pullup jumper over
"He allowed me to sit on the bench a lot longer than usual,'' said Billups, who played 32 minutes. "I love it, it is a breath of fresh air for me to be able to sit back in a tough playoff game on the road. We're in Boston, a team that hasn't lost a game [at home] -- to have a young fella out there playing so effectively, it is a great feeling."
The Celtics outrebounded them 39-31 and outscored them in second-chance points 18-10, though the Pistons made up ground in both categories over the second half. And Detroit (28 of 32) earned seven more free-throw attempts overall, continuing a negative playoff trend for the Celtics.
What you have to ask now is whether the Celtics will be staring down a 3-1 deficit when they return home for Game 5. I am going to be shocked if that happens. In this series they have been able to run their offense for the first time in a month, re-establish their three stars and mount the brief but crucial defensive bursts that have defined them. The Pistons put forth a championship execution of jump-shooting under pressure and still the game was in doubt entering its last gasps.
Just as the Pistons weren't going to allow themselves to lose both games in Boston, nor is a 66-win Celtics team that is looking like itself again going to endure a lengthy playoff run without winning a game on the road. They desperately need to win in Detroit and that's what is going to happen in this series between two teams each too proud and talented to fall too far behind.
"If we want what we want, we have to win on the road,'' said Boston coach
And so it will be, right up to the final minute of Game 7. Followed by overtime.