It had been almost 2 months since the Boston Celtics suffered a loss on their home court. Thursday night, the Detroit Pistons reminded them just what it felt like; by beating the C’s 103-97 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals match up at the TD Banknorth Garden.
The loss snapped a 9-game playoff win streak at home and a 15-game win streak dating back to the regular season. Their last loss at the Garden came at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers on March 24th. Head coach Doc Rivers knows that his team will have to capture at least one victory on the road now to advance to the NBA Finals.
“I fully believe, and I’ve said many times, at some point we’re going to have to win on the road,” Rivers said. “We’ve gotten away with it thus far. That’s been taken away. And if we want what we want, we have to win on the road and that’s just the way it is.”
Boston’s Big Three did all that they could to try and pull off the win but got very little support from the rest of the line-up which ultimately cost them the game. Paul Pierce (26), Kevin Garnett (24) and Ray Allen (25) accounted for 75 of the teams 97 points. The Pistons used a balanced offensive attack with six players scoring in double figures including all of the starting five.
“It is even,” Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace said. “We don’t sit back and say, ‘Oh, look. They are undefeated at home,’ or ‘They didn’t win a game on the road.’ … A lot of the teams they played in the postseason and the regular season were scared of them, as far as KG and Ray and Paul. They are good players, but we have good players, also.”
Unlike Game 1, last night’s tempo was much more upbeat and both teams tried to run the ball and transition for fast break points. The Pistons did this more effectively behind the reigns of veteran PG Chauncey Billups who finished with 19 points and 7 assists. Teammate Richard Hamilton (25 points, 4 assists) wanted to make sure Billups was in the right state of mind for Game 2 after a sub par performance in the series opener.
“One thing I told Chaunce, you ain’t got to be overaggressive out there,” Hamilton said. “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.”
As the series now shifts to Detroit, the big question that everyone’s asking is can the Celtics win on the road? During the regular season they had no trouble away from Boston and actually had the NBA’s best road record. Since then it’s been a different story. The C’s are 0-6 away from home during the 2008 playoffs, and now will be forced to take at least one game on the road from the Pistons to win the series.
The first thing that needs to occur for them to be successful away from Boston is they need more production and better minutes from their bench. Guys like James Posey, Eddie House and Leon Powe need to step it up. All three of those guys are very capable of dropping 8-12 points a game. Last night the three combined for only 3 points on a Posey 3-point FG.
A great sign for the Celtics was seeing Allen find his shooting touch again after a prolonged slump that last over 3 weeks. He needs to continue to feel it from behind the arc so that the Pistons are forced to pull defenders from the middle to cover him on the perimeter, which will then open up the paint for guys like KG and Kendrick Perkins.
Another key to winning on the road for the Celtics will be to maintain their composure. Calls aren’t going to be going their way, the crowd will be loud and it can get intimidating but it’s very important for them to stay focused. The Pistons are going to be fired up and the Celtics will need to match that intensity.
“The atmosphere’s going to be crazy,” Hamilton said. “We’re geeked about getting back to our home court. The fans are excited, and now it’s our job to take care of home court.”
It is now the Celtics turn to play the role of the spoiler as they hope to take one if not both of the games in Detroit over the holiday weekend. The Big Three needs to continue to dominate and can only hope that the rest of their teammates pick up the slack a bit from their output in Game 2.
“We have no choice now but to get it done on the road,” Pierce said.
They did it all during the regular season and the time has come where they will now have to find a way to do it again. Their quest for Green 17 continues, next stop Detroit City.