May 29, 2008
Fast Breaks: Pistons-Celtics
By Pablo S. Torre
Game 5   Leaders
Celtics lead series 3-2   Points Rebounds Assists
106 102
Elsa/Getty Images
Turning Point
In a way, the game was not sealed with Ray Allen's clutch 21-footer with a minute left, a shot that towed the Celtics to 102-99 and countered Rodney Stuckey's three-pointer moments earlier. It was actually after that, when the score remained a three-point difference and Celtics coach Doc Rivers did the smart thing (indeed, if you recall, the very thing Memphis couldn't do against Kansas in that fateful NCAA title game back in March): foul the ball-handler before he could launch again from deep. With eight seconds left, the Celtics caught the increasingly invaluable Stuckey as he crossed half-court, and the reserve guard sank both free throws: 102-101. The downside of the strategy, yes. But then Rivers played the odds and watched time drain. The Pistons obviously had to foul -- Allen, too, sank both to extend Boston's lead to 104-101 -- and then, with four seconds left, Boston simply fouled Stuckey again. This time, he sank one of two, Kevin Garnett sank his pair, and voila, there you have it: one meaningless Chauncey Billups miss later, a recipe for a 106-102 Game 5 victory, with as little drama as possible in the waning seconds.

Stud Of The Night
On nights like these, it's hard to disassemble the Big Three. After going a collective 11-for-38 in Game 4, Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce combined to go 25-for-43. But when pressed for the most memorable performance, you'd have to go with Allen (above), right? He'd scored a relatively meager 11, 14, 25 (OK, not so meager) and 9 to begin the series, and, probably more worrisome, had yet to drain more than two threes in a single game. On Wednesday, however, he scored 29, going 5-for-6 from three-point range. But again, the most important shots were these: that last-minute 21-footer, and the two free throws to ice the game for good. (Apologies to Garnett, who posted 33 points on 11-for-17 shooting, nailing turnaround jumpers and picking up seven boards. One struggles to estimate the value of his trademark chest-thumping, but he did that, too.)

Dud Of The Night
Just call it the roll of the 'Dyess. In Game 4 on Monday, 11-year veteran Antonio McDyess was reborn as a marksman, exploiting the open spaces permitted by Boston's tendency to favor the strong side on defense. The result: 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting -- most of them long jumpers -- to accompany a game-high 16 rebounds. ("They always leave me for some reason," McDyess pointed out after Game 4.) On Wednesday, however, the power forward came up snake eyes. The Celtics' game plan was twofold: first, make him dribble the ball as opposed to catch and shoot (if he made those, Rivers could "live with that"); second, attack him and make him defend. Lo and behold, the plan worked to perfection. McDyess fouled out of the game with 4:04 remaining in the fourth quarter; in fact, he'd collected his fourth personal with 9:14 remaining in the third. His unceremonious exit capped a night of 1-for-2 shooting from the field -- the one miss an ominous air ball on his first shot of the game (a jumper, naturally) -- and three boards.

Under The Radar
One imagines that on any radar, Kendrick Perkins would resemble a fairly sizable blip. But thanks to the Big Three's rejuvenation, it's relatively easy to forget that the 6-foot-10 center brought his lunch pail and went to work in the paint. Perkins had 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounds -- five of them on the offensive glass -- while missing only three shots. Perhaps inspired by the Muhammad Ali fights Rivers has been showing his team during the postseason, Perkins also played a huge part in rendering Boston the aggressor after being muscled around in Detroit. (He even collected a technical.) The Celtics are now back on track: Through the first three games of the series, they held a 114-70 advantage in points inside before throwing up only 24 in Game 4. On Wednesday, they doubled Detroit 36-18. That, in short, is how your team shoots 50.7 percent from the field.

Stat Of The Night
Nineteen -- as in, the total number of three-pointers that found the bottom of the net. Prior to Game 5, Detroit had gone 12-for-43 (27.9 percent) from deep and Boston 13-for-51 (25.5 percent), good for a grand total of just 25 over four games. (In fact, no one player had collected more than two in a single game.) The floodgates finally flung open in Boston, and you basically have two people to thank: Allen, of course, and Rasheed Wallace. All 18 of the latter's points came on 6-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc, breaking through against Garnett after going 3-for-11 on long-balls previously. If he has rediscovered this weapon for good -- it is, combined with his skyscraping release point, probably one of the most unblockable shots in basketball -- it might just stop looking like the 1970s in the Eastern Conference finals. After all, as Pistons coach Flip Saunders acknowledged before the game, neither team is a three-point slouch. In the regular season, Boston was third in the East in terms of percentage, Detroit sixth.

Courtside Confidential
Bill Belichick was resplendent in spring colors, sporting a light-blue, short-sleeved shirt and, most unsettlingly, a smile. His face on the JumboTron warranted maybe the loudest cheers of the night -- no small feat. ... Good news, Boston: The statistics are certainly in your favor the rest of the way. The team that wins Game 5 of a series tied 2-2 wins the series 83 percent of the time. Not that the players know about any of those stats, or seem to care. In between bites of postgame buffet pasta, the Celtics' Brian Scalabrine said neither he nor his teammates had any idea. Nor should they, really, when you think about it.


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