Celtics-Pistons: Game 2

1190922388It seems completely ridiculous to make the following statement about a team that has already won two Game 7’s, but: Now we’ll find out what the Celtics are really made of. They have to win one of the next two games in Detroit, simple as that. Maybe it’s better for the C’s this way. Maybe they need to be backed up against the wall. Maybe it’s all a bunch of cliche-spewing drivel. We’ll find out this weekend.

The Pistons provided the how-to-win-a-game-on-the-road primer last night. They played the game at their pace, and whenever the Celtics made a run, they answered it. Three times Boston cut it to two points in the fourth, but the Pistons pushed it back to four each and every time. When the C’s made a big push to open the second half, Detroit his 3’s on three straight possessions (the basketball equivalent of back-to-back-to-back home runs).

Hope the Celtics were taking notes.

1. Everyone loves talking about the fourth quarter as if the final 12 minutes are some kind of a character referendum, but the points count just the same in the first 36 minutes, and the Celtics lost this one in the second quarter. It was the worst 12 minutes the C’s have played defensively at home during the playoffs, by far. Not surprisingly, the bench played the majority of the minutes.

The spotty bench play led Doc Rivers to play Paul Pierce 47 minutes and Kevin Garnett 40+ for the fifth straight game. In a completely related note, Detroit got to three long loose-ball offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. Those kind of plays are part luck, part hustle, but mostly the result of tired legs.

2. The reflexive move is to kill Doc for leaving Ray Allen out on the floor to get his fifth foul in the third quarter, but it didn’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things because Allen wound up playing his regular minutes in the second half. It was in the first half when he missed almost all of the (wait for it) second quarter that really stung.

3. Speaking of Allen, we had a feeling he would go off last night. We also had a hunch that Chauncey Billups was going to be much better in Game 2 (not exactly a tough call there), but our third fearless prediction will have to wait for Game 3. Sam Cassell will play in Detroit. Book it.

4. Not saying this swung the game either way, but the performance turned in by Sean Corbin, Tom Washington, and Steve Javie last night was not up to the standards of a conference finals. The officiating in the playoffs has been woefully inconsistent.

5. The Celtics seemed eerily calm after the game. Maybe because Allen finally got going, or maybe because they realized that they hadn’t actually played well enough to win the game. The feeling here is that they will finally stop fighting themselves on the road and win one in the Palace. This series is still going seven games.

Related: SI’s Ian Thomsen has been providing some of the most cogent, and hysteria-free, analysis of the playoffs. (Read it here).