x Boston Celtics 5 InicialDetroit Pistons 5 InicialPistons-Celtics series breakdownSeason Series:
Celtics won 2-1• Dec. 19 -- Pistons 87, Celtics 85:
Chauncey Billups scored 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws with 0.1 second left, as Detroit handed Boston its first home defeat of the season. Kevin Garnett had 26 points and Ray Allen 24 for the Celtics.• Jan. 5 -- Celtics 92, Pistons 85:
Rookie backup forward Glen (Big Baby) Davis stole the show with a personal-best 20 points and four boards as the Celtics snapped host Detroit's 11-game winning streak. Paul Pierce added 19 points, nine boards and seven assists for Boston, which held Detroit to 39.2 percent shooting.• Mar. 5 -- Celtics 90, Pistons 78:
Garnett had a season-high 31 points as the host Celtics claimed the season series in a chippy game that featured three technical fouls. Allen received one early for elbowing Rip Hamilton in the chest. The Pistons' Jason Maxiell also committed a hard foul on Rajon Rondo in the third quarter.The Skinny:
The NBA's two top teams during the regular season (at least in terms of record) square off for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Boston (66-16) is making its first trip to this stage since 2002, when it lost to the Nets in six games. Detroit (59-23) is making its sixth straight appearance in the conference finals, but it has come up empty the past two seasons.
The main focus will be on Boston's Big Three (Garnett, Pierce and Allen) and whether it can overtake a balanced Detroit squad that has been playing together longer and boasts one of the league's better cores (Billups, Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess). The series also features two of the NBA's best defensive clubs. The Celtics and Pistons ranked 1-2 in points allowed during the regular season, and they were each in the top three in field-goal percentage allowed.
Both teams enter the series with question marks. The Celtics have not played up to their regular-season form in the playoffs, needing seven games to dispatch the Hawks in the first round and seven more to eliminate the Cavs in Round 2. They are 0-6 on the road, though it might not matter since they hold home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Pistons needed six games to eliminate the Sixers in the first round, but seemed to find their swagger in ousting the Magic in five in the second round. However, Billups suffered a strained hamstring in Game 3 of that series and sat out the last two contests. Billups says he is fine now, but it could bear watching.
The Celtics will be tough to beat at home, where they are 8-0 in the postseason. But the Pistons won in Boston earlier this season, and they are an experienced club. They also have Prince, one of the game's best defenders, to slow Pierce. Given Boston's offensive struggles against Cleveland, it's fair to wonder if the Celtics will have any more success putting points on the board against Detroit's tough defense. The Pistons, meanwhile, should be able to score more effectively than Cleveland did with its one-man LeBron James show.Key Matchup:
'Sheed vs. KG
These two All-Star big men won't match up all the time, but they will see plenty of each other. Rasheed is better in the low post and from beyond the three-point line, but Garnett has the superior all-around game. Look for each to be featured heavily in the pick-and-roll on both ends of the court. But the real intrigue in this matchup will be in the area of team leadership. Garnett wants badly to win an NBA ring and has not let his team stray from its mission. Wallace is one of the game's best players when focused, but his tendency to become unhinged over officiating is legendary. Less obvious, but perhaps more harmful to his team, is that he sometimes settles for too many outside shots. If 'Sheed attacks the basket and keeps his composure in this series, the Pistons should be in good shape.X-Factor for Pistons:
The 6-foot-5 rookie guard came up big in Detroit's previous series against the Magic, averaging 9.8 points and 3.4 assists. He showed no fear in racking up 19 points in Game 3, and then 15 points and six assists in Game 5. With Billups possibly still not 100 percent, and points figuring to be at a premium, he might need to step up again.X-Factor for Celtics:
The All-Star shooting guard was AWOL against the Cavs in the last round, averaging 9.3 points while hitting just 20-of-61 (32.8 percent) from the field and 4-of-24 (16.7 percent) from three-point range. Considering he was being guarded much of the time by Wally Szczerbiak, the vanishing act was mind-boggling. Allen had better regain his form quickly, or Hamilton will eat him alive.The Pick:
The Celtics have not looked like a championship outfit so far in these playoffs. Maybe they need another year playing together. For the Pistons, this might be their last shot. Look for them to prevail in a hard-fought, low-scoring series.Detroit in seven.