By Kevin Henkin
And now, the road will be the Celtics’ salvation. Or not. Regardless, it’s time to put Ubuntu to the test.
With a 103-97 victory by Detroit in Game 2, Boston will now be forced to win their first playoff game on the road in order to continue their season. The good news? Ray Allen played the role of prodigal son and returned home with a 25 point performance on an efficient 9-16 shooting line. In the second half in particular, Allen again became the feared sniper, turning the Pistons back on their heels time and again. Alas, it wasn’t enough.
For starters, you can point to the second quarter as a deciding factor, when the Celtics’ defense took a extended nap and allowed Detroit to score 32 points to Boston’s 23. The officiating was also once again questionable (For example, crashing into a teammate but within close proximity of an opponent does not constitute a foul. I checked). Mostly, though, the credit goes to the Pistons for flat out executing when the game was on the line.
I was at the game tonight and composed a running commentary, which by the way seems to work better as a concept when the Celtics win. Anyway, here is the game as I saw it unfold:
A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams. Or something. Anyway, I’m happy to be back on site beside the hallowed parquet floor here in Boston. So too are the Celtics, I’m sure. For them, this must feel like the last day of a tremendous vacation. Try as they might to make each moment last, they cannot escape that sinking feeling of…the road. It’s like the Celtics deserve their own series of commercials with still shots and dramatic piano music in the background. The NBA…The Celtics on the road in the playoffs…where offensive stagnation happens…where bad defense happens…where Sam Cassell happens…where losing to inferior teams happens…Regardless, that’s a problem for another day. The Celtics are still at home for Game 2 against the Pistons and they need to hold serve to keep their leg up in this series. As usual, I’m going to offer up my observations made as the game progresses.
One of the songs they have in the pre-game rotation is Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, which of course reminds Patriots fans of the halftime show of the Super Bowl and thus of the Super Bowl itself. Can we all agree not to play this song at any Boston sporting events going forward?
Speaking of songs, someone named Kat DeLuna oversings the National Anthem. She starts out with “Oh say can you see, like the dawn’s early light…” To her credit, she did not say “bunch ’a bombs in the air.” Regardless, Enrico Palatzo would have been proud.
Rasheed Wallace picks up his first technical foul of the game at the 7:18 mark. The drunken face-painters sitting behind me gleefully approve.
Chauncey Billups is guarding Ray Allen again. After Allen drifts by him, Billups falls down for no apparent reason and looks at the nearest official, who thankfully doesn’t bite. Honestly, Billups is a poorer actor than most porn stars and yet he still gets some of those ridiculous calls.
Holy crap. A Tony Allen sighting with 18 seconds left in the quarter! At this point, after so many DNP-CDs thrown his way, I just assumed that Tony’s legs had atrophied and that he’d taken over Michael Olowokandi’s former full time role of ignoring Doc Rivers and staring at the Jumbotron and the cheerleaders during timeouts.
Ugly quarter. It feels like Boston is playing quite a bit better than Detroit but they’re only up 20 to18. For the quarter, the Pistons shot 37.5% with 5 turnovers but the Celtics weren’t able to capitalize. Of note, the Big Three scored all 20 of the team’s points.
In the first minute, Rasheed Wallace picks up his second foul. On his way back to the bench, he looks angry and confused, like he’s just finished reading a Tony Massarotti column.
At 8:41, Ray Allen gets mugged and then called for his third foul. Looks like it’s Big Game James Posey time.
Yikes. The Celtics commit 4 turnovers and miss their first 8 shots before finally scoring with trips to the line on successive possessions. Then James Posey reminds Ray Allen what a big three point shot looks like. Even so, the Celtics are often slow to rotate and are giving up way too many easy baskets to the Pistons on the other end.
Did I call the first quarter ugly? It was a work of art compared to the second one, during which the Celtics allowed Detroit to scored 32 points versus their own 23. As mentioned above, the Pistons shot 37.5% in the first quarter but were up to 51.5% by the end of the half. Not helping the cause was the 3 points in total contributions from the Boston bench.
In other news, Rivers expanded his rotation to 11 players in the half, leaving only Sam Cassell sitting in his warm-ups. When Rivers sees someone who looks like Antoine Walker sitting in the crowd, he frantically waves him over to the scorer’s table.
Boston comes out of the gate fast, punctuating their rally with a jumper by Ray Allen. The crowd instantly recognizes the significance of Ray’s shot. The relief is collectively felt by over 14,000 people in attendance. It’s inside of four minutes and Detroit’s tenuous lead is already erased.
Here’s the sequence at 4:37. Rajon Rondo cheats on Chauncey Billups, trying to get the steal because Rajon Rondo loves steals. Unfortunately, Billups holds onto the ball and, because Rondo is already committed to attempting the steal, Billups blows right by him and draws the easy foul on the help defense, in this case Kendrick Perkins. Rondo’s steals are nice. He has two in the game already. However, it should also be noted for the record that his over-aggression often hangs his teammates out to dry. Rant over.
Someone forgot to tell the Celtics that quarters actually last twelve full minutes. After coming out of the gates strong, their offense sputtered again. Meanwhile, the Pistons got hot from behind the arc then rebuilt their lead again, actually increasing it by two from their 7 point halftime advantage. To say that the next 12 minutes might become a deciding factor in the series would not be an understatement.
After five minutes of the teams trading baskets, Ray Allen converts on a monumental baseline dunk. I guess Ray’s ankles are feeling better. He has 17 points thus far in a comeback performance that at this point his team desperately needs.
P.J. Brown, the sequel, is now 2 for 2 in open jumpers down the stretch.
Alright, I officially declare it: Ray Allen the shooter is back amongst the living, hitting a monster three and then a two. If Detroit didn’t keep answering with relentless baskets at their own end, I suppose the re-emergence of Allen would feel even sweeter,
At the 2:30 Allen gets fouled twice in the same possession and the Celitcs lose their composure complaining to the officials on their trip up the floor. Predictably, Detroit scores.
Down by 4 and needing the stop with under a minute to play, Boston plays 22 seconds of excellent defense before allowing Rip Hamilton to slip free and hit a running jumper.
I’ll leave the rest to the beat reporters. The Pistons outplayed the Celtics in their own building, end of story. In summation, those 66 regular season wins were just rendered meaningless. Homecourt advantage now belongs to Detroit until Boston can likewise answer on the road.
To be continued…