The question of rest vs rhythm was answered early. The Celtics came out strong and got off to an 8-0 lead before Billups hit a 3 to stop the run. The Pistons then went on an 8 point run of their own to give the Pistons their first lead at 13-12. The Celtics finished the quarter on a run to grab a 22-17 lead at the end of one. The Pistons shot just 37% in the quarter in part because of some rust on the game and in part because of the Celtics stifling defense. Perk was a beast right from the start, grabbing 8 rebounds in the first quarter. He finished with 5 points, 10 rebounds and 1 assist in 31 minutes and his defense on Rasheed Wallace was a big factor in this game.
The Celtics started the second quarter with Ray, PJ, Posey, Powe and House. The Pistons scored the first 5 points of the quarter to tie the game at 22. The lead went back and forth throughout the half and the Celtics ended the half up 41-40. The Celtics shot 51% for the half while holding the Pistons to 39%. The Celtics also out rebounded the Pistons 20-16. But, the difference was at the line where the Pistons shot 17 free throws to just 7 for the Celtics.
The Pistons scored first in the third quarter to take the lead but the Celtics went back up for good on two free throws by Ray Allen to make it 43-42. Ray struggled with his shot again (3-10) but played a very good game, driving to the basket, rebounding and making passes to find the open man. He finished with 9 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. The Celtics led 69-57 at the end of the third quarter.
Doc started the 4th quarter with Ray, PJ, Powe, Posey and House but KG came in after just 30 seconds and Rondo and Pierce were back on the court after another minute of play. KG and Pierce took turns putting up big shots and Rondo hit a big 3 to give the Celtics an 86-75 lead with 1:46 left in the game. The Celtics were up 88-76 with 22 seconds to play but Prince hit a 3 at the buzzer to bring the final score to 88-79.
The game was fairly physical with a lot of contact being allowed by the refs. There were no incidents other than a cheap shot by Hamilton when he hit KG in the face with an elbow and KG did good not to retaliate. In the second half, the free throws evened out and by the end of the game the discrepancy was just 6 more for the Pistons.
KG took over the defense to start the game and finished with 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Paul Pierce picked up where he left off in game 7, hitting tough shots and taking the ball to the hoop and just being aggressive on both ends of the court finishing with 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. Chauncey Billups was still hampered by the sore hamstring and was out played by Rondo with 11 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 steals with only 1 turnover in 40 minutes. Doc once again went with Eddie House at the back up point and he brought energy off the bench with 5 points (2-3), 1 rebound and 1 steal. Leon Powe also was back in the rotation along with PJ Brown who once again came up big with 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block in 18 minutes.
In this game, the Celtics looked more like the team that won 66 games this season. They were aggressive on both ends of the court and held the Pistons to 42% shooting while shooting 52% themselves. The rebounds were even at 37. The Celtics' ball movement was key to this win as they had 27 assists on 36 field goals. The game was tied 12 times and there were 12 lead changes, but the Celtics grabbed the lead in the beginning of the third quarter and kept it. The Pistons are known for taking good care of the ball and don't turn it over often. They even set an NBA record with only 3 turnovers in their series clinching win over the Magic, but tonight they turned it over 13 times in the face of the Celtics defense.
The Pistons were hoping to steal this game with the Celtics coming off a tough 7 game series against Cleveland and they were well rested after being off for a week. But the Celtics came out strong right from the start and crashed the boards, moved the ball and attacked the basket. Game 2 is on Thursday night in the Garden and hopefully the Celtics can keep their home win steak alive then. If they play like they did tonight, they have a very good chance of doing so. As an aside, it sure was nice watching the Celtics pre-game show instead of the lottery. What a difference a year makes!!