The Eastern Conference Finals are underway and after another big performance by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics captured a Game 1 win by the score of 88-79 to take a 1-0 series lead over the Detroit Pistons. The victory improves the C’s playoff home record to a perfect 9-0 and they continue to excel defensively holding opponents to a 79.2 points per game average at the TD Banknorth Garden.
“The defensive pressure was fantastic,” gushed Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Offensively, we made the extra pass. The ball kept moving, finding the open guy, and that’s how we have to play.”
The Celtics team that showed up to play last night reminded everyone watching of the ball club that won 66 games during the regular season, breezed to the best record in the NBA and was a supposed lock to represent the East in the NBA Finals. It’s been three weeks since anyone had seen any sign of that team, but they definitely came out to play in the yesterdays dominating victory.
After a 41 point performance in Sunday’s Game 7 against Cleveland, Pierce picked up where he left off pouring in 22 points on 9-18 shooting, grabbing 6 boards and dishing out 6 assists for an impressive all around effort. No one on the Pistons lineup matches up well against him and ‘the truth’ was able to pick apart each defender by varying his shot selection with baseline fade away jumpers, free throw extended set shots and open looks on the wing. When defenders started to cheat closer trying to get the extra step, he’d slash to the basket which would result in either a bucket, a foul or defensive help opening up a shot for a teammate.
“You got Detroit coming in, well-rested,” Pierce said. “This was the perfect game for them to come in and try to steal one, and we were aware of that. They probably figured we were tired while they’ve been practicing. And we just came out with extra focus and extra energy at the start of the game.”
Speaking of extra energy, Garnett came out of the gates looking like he had been hooked up all day to a Red Bull I.V. drip. The defensive player of the year hit his first three shots from the floor, pounded his chest after every basket and screaming to the Boston fans fueling their energy for the rest of the game. KG finished the game with 26 points and 9 rebounds in 38 minutes of action.
“We just didn’t seem to be in a good flow, it might have had something to do with (the layoff). We were just a step slow,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “We didn’t get into the flow.”
Veteran guard Ray Allen has gotten used to the routine of playing every other day and thinks that it is working towards the Celtics advantage. “You have to figure, doing this every other day, you just get used to the same routine of coming out, being out this late, playing basketball,” Allen said. “I think when you get that break in between, you have to build yourself back up into it.”
Unlike some games in the first two playoffs series, the Celtics really had control of this one all throughout. They jumped out to an early 8-0 lead and then played the type of basketball that everyone expected to see in the playoffs, a team oriented style of play. Players were making the extra pass to find an open teammate and not forcing shots. The end result, 27 assists and a .522 shooting percentage from the floor.
If the Celtics can put up those types of numbers every game, next week the Pistons will be golfing while the C’s will be the team getting the week long layoff before the NBA finals begin on June 5th.
There’s only one thing that needs to take place for that to happen that has yet to… Boston needs to win on the road. They currently hold a 0-6 mark when playing away from the Garden but hope to turn it around this weekend when they head to Detroit for games 3 and 4 of the series.
Before they ship out of Boston, there is still work to be done in Game 2. The Celtics look to stay perfect at home while the Pistons will do everything in their power to stop the home win streak right where it is.
The players will be fired up, the Garden will be fired up and you should be fired up as the Celtics continue their quest for Green 17.
Celtics Tickets are still available for Game 2!