Celtics-Pistons: The Breakdown

1190922388What do you call the revision of revisionist history? There seems to be some interesting on-the-fly reevaluation of the Celtics with each passing game, and each grueling seven-game series. The basic outline of expectations for the C’s has gone like this:

Beginning of the year: Playoffs, 50 wins, and maybe a spot in the conference finals.

After the 29-3 start: Anything less than the NBA finals would be a disappointment.

After the Atlanta series: Maybe they aren’t as good as we thought they were.

After Games 3, 4, and 6 in Cleveland: WTF was that?

After Game 7: Mission accomplished.

Can we all just agree that after an historic regular season and 14 playoff games, no one really knows how good the Celtics are? That’s the issue when trying to make sense of the Detroit series.

There have been times when the C’s have looked dominating, and others when they have looked, frankly, confused and tentative.

X-Factor for Detroit: the Health of Chauncey Billups

We won’t know until tonight how Mr. Big Shot is feeling. His rookie backup, Rodney Stuckey, was great against Orlando, but keeping up with Rajon Rondo is a whole other matter entirely.

X-Factor for Boston: Fatigue

The Celtics have now played 14 playoff games in 29 days. Kevin Garnett, in particular, logged a lot of minutes in the last three games of the Cleveland series. It hasn’t caught up to them yet. Yet.

Key matchup for Detroit: Rip Hamilton vs. Ray Allen

Rip has been Detroit’s top scorer in the playoffs, and his biggest strength is that he can run all game. Allen look slow and worn out against the much-bigger Cavaliers. This would seem to be a huge advantage for the Pistons.

Key matchup for Boston: Paul Pierce vs. Tayshaun Prince

Prince has given Pierce fits over the years with his length and reach. Pierce’s assignment against the Cavs was to make life tough for LeBron James and he succeeded. Against Prince, Pierce will have to score.

Schizophrenic? Us?

So much has been made of the Celtics road woes that it’s tempting to forget that the Pistons lost Game 1 at home against the 76ers and found themselves tied, 2-2. Detroit has been known to let their attention wander. The assumption is that the Pistons have worked through their issues, but both teams have mental baggage. Whoever deals with the demons best will have an edge.

The Pick

Billups’ health notwithstanding, there are many factors that point to Detroit winning this series. The Pistons are well-rested and hungry. They have more experience playing together, and they are set in their roles and rotations. Besides depth, the Celtics have one huge advantage: Home court. If the Pistons have a chance to win the series in the Palace, you have to assume they will do it, but if it comes back for a Game 7 in the Garden…

Vegas has made the Celtics a slight favorite to win the series, but the public is clearly on Detroit’s side. A smart man once said, “You can never go wrong betting against the public.”

So, with a very large gulp: Celtics in seven.