Trend Reversal The Celtics' extended playoff run caught up with them on their homecourt, where they had gone undefeated throughout while surviving a pair of Game 7s against Atlanta and Cleveland. "The game I was fearful with the fatigue factor was today," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I thought the adrenaline of Game 7 [last Sunday] would take us through Game 1; our coaches felt the same way." But the enervated Celtics were unable to keep up with the Pistons' ball movement from one side of the court to the other. "We were a step or two behind," said Rivers of his defense. "Not a lot you can do with it."Now the question is whether they can reverse another trend and win away from Boston. "There was going to come a time where we've got to get one, and we've finally come upfront with that dilemma," said Kevin Garnett (pictured). "We've got to find some way to win one on the road."Others were counting on a win at Detroit to slingshot the Celtics' confidence and turn a negative into a positive. "I like that pressure," said Boston center Kendrick Perkins. "I think that's good for us. We been through a lot of adversity this year. One more thing ain't going to hurt us. As long as we stick together we'll be fine."
A Great Unmasking Chauncey Billups hadn't played since May 5, and he had little effect on Game 1 until the fourth quarter. He produced successive field goals on drives to the basket and into the key for a jumper that pushed the Pistons within six points of the Celtics in the final five minutes. "He wasn't as comfortable coming off screens, looking to shoot it as quick," said Saunders. "He's going to have to be aggressive for us." The most important thing about Billups's performance, as pointed out by Wallace, was that he didn't reinjure the strained right hamstring he suffered in the previous series against Orlando. "Obviously my explosiveness wasn't really there," said Billups. "But I felt good, and I know I did better as the game went along."
No Pep Talk Necessary Pistons forward Antonio McDyess began the game typically wearing his protective mask, which has defined his appearance since he underwent surgery to repair a broken nose suffered in the opening round against Philadelphia. But in the fifth minute he pulled it off and thereafter played like a liberated man, going for 11 first-half points as the Pistons took a 50-43 lead into the lockerroom. This was part of a larger trend in which neither Chauncey Billups nor Rasheed Wallace wore the black leggings in which they had been held to a combined 20 points (6 of 18) in Detroit's Game 1 loss. Two nights later, Wallace was going 4 for 5 in the second half of Game 2 with a pair of big threes thrown in. "Rasheed was huge," said Billups. "He didn't miss a lot of defensive coverages tonight, he was locked in mentally. He was huge, he was stuck, he was great, he was cool." He played hard, as did both teams.
Bench Issues Pistons rookie Rodney Stuckey outscored the entire Celtics bench 13-8 as Eddie House, James Posey and Tony Allen went a combined 1 for 9 for the Celtics. (Boston's P.J. Brown was 2 for 2 from the floor in his 19 minutes and therefore is exempt from criticism.) The only Celtic who didn't play in Game 2 (or in this series thus far) was Sam Cassell, who had been signed in March as a big point guard to match-up with the likes of Billups. But Cassell has been displaced by his poor defense and the postseason emergence of House.Rivers has been complaining about the inability of his second unit to handle ball pressure, which may signal an opportunity for Cassell in Detroit. "You know how you guys are," Rivers told reporters after Game 2. "If Sam is not playing well, play Eddie. If Eddie is not playing well, play Sam. Either way [I'm] a dunce ? I think on the road Sam's experience could help. We'll see."
Best Move The Pistons made a number of big perimeter shots to quiet the crowd and prevent potential game-changing runs by Boston, which didn't lead for the final 17:56. Perhaps the biggest shot of all was a difficult runner by Richard Hamilton into the lane after Garnett had come out to the three-point line to defend him. Garnett grabbed the ball out of the basket afterwards and shook his head as if to admit there can be no defense against a play like that. "The one thing I wanted to do was stay poised," said Hamilton. "When K.G. was on me, I just tried to attack him because I know everybody had to stay home when we've got Chaunce out there, Tay [Prince] out there and the two bigs [Wallace and McDyess]. So I just tried to be aggressive and get to the basket, and I hit the shot."
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