Let me start by saying that despite the outcome, this was a very good game to watch.
Let's set the mood - Two teams with motivation: Detriot got it handed to them by Pau Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies last night. The Celtics, of course, wanted revenge for the butt whooping they took last meeting against the World Champions.
I want to talk about 2 particular plays in the first quarter that I think help ememplify the way this game was played.
Play 1: Raef LaFrentz makes a big block, the ball gets collected and pushed up the floor by Paul Pierce, who feeds a cutting Gary Payton for a layup that ended up being goaltended by Tayshaun Prince.
Play 2: Ball pushed up by Jiri Welsch. He feeds Blount at the right top of the key elbow, who then passes to PP at the top of the arc. Blount then sets a screen for PP, rolls off the pick where PP feeds him the roll. The Detriot defense sees this and steps in front of Blount with a double team, to which Blount responds by dropping a pass to a cutting Al Jefferson who rewarded the ball movement with a nice 2 handed rim rocker.
By the time both of these plays had happened, it was 22-20 Celtics with 2:57 left in the 1st. The two teams were just operating at almost pure proficiency. I don't want those who didn't see this game to think that everytime Detriot made a run in this one, it was because of defensive lapses (well, sometimes it was, but....) The defenses for both teams were playing, for the most part, right up in thier mans faces. The offensive players on both sides just didn't seem to notice. The scoring opportunities being created by both teams good passing and team play would have made the shooting percentages go up anyways, but not only were the shots falling, but most of the shots that were being made were "earned" besides. The shooters just seemed to be dominating the efforts of defenders. Both teams shot 59% FG.
I don't remember a back and forth game like this one since the classic Celtics vs Pacers Playoff Series featuring Bird vs the Rifleman, minus the trash talk, of course. It was like watching playoff basketball for alot of this game. Very entertaining game.
Anyways, Kendrick Perkins got into this one early, at the 1:21 mark with Pistons leading 26-25. He then scored on FT's to make the score 27-26 Celtics. However, McDyess got the Pistons the lead right back 29-28. Banks beat Hamilton for a score, but Hunter countered that with a coast to coast assault, eventually beating 3 Celtics for the score to end the 1st: 30-29 Detriot
The 2nd saw a nice mix of basketball. The offensives continued to showcase strong shooting and good team passing and the defenses were still right there trying to stop them. Banks hit a clutch 3 pter off an inbounds with .04 left on the shot clock and it was 38-37 Pistons. However, another nice passing play to Raef, (who then went to the line for a traditional 3 pt play) with 5:57 left in the 2nd and the Celtics led 41-40. They kept slugging at each other until an alley-oop to McDyess broke the more subdued scoring mold that had developed. That play, plus a Prince 3pter and at 1:28 left, the Pistons had surged forward 57-51. GP took it to the hoop but it was cancelled out and then one on another Prince 3pter that left .08 on the clock.
At the Half: 63-53 Pistons.
The Celtics outscored the Pistons in the paint in the first half 28-16 and on thier first possession went right into Blount for a score. 63-55 Pistons. Paul Pierce, at this point in the game, seemed a little out of sorts. He only had 6pts, 4 rbs and had just committed two turnovers in a row.
Blount fed Raef for a dunk and RD added 2 more points and at 6:09, the C's trail 65-67, but are right back in the game, making a run to counter the end of the half one made by the Pistons. Interesting......
One of's PP's fade away, pump and jumpers made the score 69-67 with 5:11 left. Blount collected his 4th foul a few seconds later and Al Jefferson collected his 4th at 4:35 on a Phantom foul. Another PP turnaround jumper at 4:05 and it's 70-69 Detriot. Raef collected his 4th foul with 56.5 left and as the 3rd ended, Detriot led 82-73.
The C's had shot 58% through 3 quarters was were still losing by 9. However, the Pistons were close-to as impressive, plus shooting 7/10 from beyond the arc. Billups hit the 7th 3pter at the 10:20 mark, making it 87-75.
Raef fouled out at 5:24, with Detriot leading 95-87. This was of note, because it appears on the preceeding possession, he was awarded a foul that should have been on Paul Pierce. A PP to Al Jefferson pick and roll and it was 96-90 with 5:12 left. Al Jefferson got his 5th foul less than a 10 tic later. Another nice play of GP to PP to Al Jefferson for the soft hook and it's 97-92 with 4:40 left. RD got fouled and hit 2 FT's and Boston is on a 9-2 run, the score 97-94 Pistons. RD then got a Tommy Point for a pure hustle and sacrifice your body on the floor play to come up with a loose ball. Jiri then scored on a nice drive to the hole and the C's are back 1, 97-96.
The Fleet (or whatever it's name is today) was very loud on several occasions in the second half and this was perhaps the loudest of them. The Jungle was alive and as loud as I've heard it in a long time. (There's a message in there someplace, methinks)
Detriot came right out of the timeout and responded with a Sheed jumper and it's 99-96. Sheed then blocked the shot on the other end which resulted in a Billups jumper. 101-96 Detriot with 2:13 left. RD scored at 1:58 to move the C's to within a possession. Rip Hamilton hit a 3pter, when PP overhelped on someone else's man. Rip scored again and it was now 106-98 and the memory of how they closed out the 1st half is firmly dumped in our faces at this point. It was no fluke, at least not tonight. They were in charge.
Final score: 110-104 Detriot.
Player of the Game: (You choose)
Paul Pierce: 22/5/5
Gary Payton: 17/4/5
Ricky Davis: 19/5/2