Boston Versus Detroit PreviewEastern Conference Finals
#1 Boston (66-16) vs. #2 Detroit (59-23)
Season series: Boston, 2-1
Detroit can win if…they can control the boards and find a way to score consistently against Boston's stifling defense; the Celtics won the rebounding battle in all three regular season games and held the Pistons to a field goal percentage below .410 in each of those contests.
Boston will win because…the Celtics are an outstanding defensive team that will outexecute the Pistons down the stretch.
Other things to consider: Boston's road woes during this year's playoffs have been much discussed but the bottom line is that this is the first go around in the postseason for this team collectively and they have won every must-win game so far--not only the two seventh games but also the two fifth games which, as Coach Doc Rivers pointed out, are also pressure packed situations. Detroit has a tendency to get lackadaisical during the course of a playoff series and that flaw has prevented the Pistons from returning to the NBA Finals since the departure of Coach Larry Brown and center Ben Wallace. Coach Flip Saunders' much vaunted "liberation offense" works a lot better in the regular season against overmatched teams than it does in the latter stages of the playoffs against elite teams. Look for the Pistons to have some brutal fourth quarter stretches offensively, look for the Celtics to finally win a road playoff game and look for Boston to win this series in six games. As a side note, there is of course no way to prove this--other than noting Cleveland's 4-3 Eastern Conference Finals win last year and how they forced the Celtics to a seventh game--but I think that Cleveland would have beaten Detroit, too.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:13 PM