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Monday, May 19, 2008

Boston Versus Detroit Preview

Eastern 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.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:13 PM



At Monday, May 19, 2008 8:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David,

I'm just glad Doc finally realized that Cassell was hurting more than he was helping against the Cavs. That said, he might be more effective against the bigger Billups. Though as much as I've complained about Doc's rotation issues, it looks like playing PJ was a stroke of genius. Not to mention the re-emergence of Eddie House (instead of Cassell)! I just hope that Doc sticks to some kind of normal rotation now. PJ was great, but he's old and can't play those kinds of minutes again. Also, what happened to Powe?! I love Big Baby, but Powe was solid all year. Why is he out of the rotation?

Anyway, as much as Doc's rotations scare me, i think the real key is Ray. He needs to break out of his slump for the Celts to beat the Pistons. Unfortunately, the Piston D is considered better than the Cav D. The Celts can't afford for him to be a non-factor. PJ can't save them every time. Not on those ancient knees... Doc needs to find a way to work him into the offense more. He was double consistently off the pick and roll in cleveland. Doc needs to find a way to get him involved for the Celts to take down Detroit. should be a great series!

At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 2:27:00 AM, Blogger beep said...

I think Pistons are more poised to win now than last year. Although I still would bet Celtics in 7.

There're some question marks though, Celtics still have to win that road game, and Pistons have more firepower than Cavs. I mean each starting player may have great night, be it Billups (if he's ok) or Hamilton or Sheed or Prince or some bench player. If they add as good defence as Cavs' was, they will win.

Also I don't know if Pistons longer resting time helps them or makes them rusty.

At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 6:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Cassell is a proven playoff performer, so I understand why Rivers put him out there. I don't think that Rivers stuck with him too long; he gave him a chance in some games and after it didn't work then he went in a different direction. Cassell took shots that he has made throughout his career but they just did not go in during the latter part of the series; that said, his shooting did play a role in the game one victory.

The rotation depends on matchups, foul trouble and, in the case of older players, fatigue. Rivers even joked that he might not be able to play Brown for a while now; the reality is that they brought Brown in for just that kind of moment and he delivered big time. Do you think Leon Powe would have done as well in a game seven situation?

What happened to Ray Allen's game is the great mystery of this series. Did he suddenly get old, does he have an injury no one knows about, does he need more shot attempts to get into a good rhythm or is it something else? I honestly think that nobody knows the answer--unless the answer is that Allen is concealing an injury, in which case he obviously would know that. Based on what I saw in person in the games in Cleveland, Allen looked like he had aged a lot: he almost missed a dunk and he did not have good lift on his jumper. I'm not sure that we are going to see the Ray Allen of old in this series but I do think that Boston can beat Detroit even with a subpar Allen. I'm not sure that Detroit's defense is better than Cleveland's; you can't go by regular seasons stats, because Cleveland battled injuries and roster instability. The Cavs' defense in the playoffs was better than it was at any time during the regular season (other than the blowout loss to Washington in round one, of course).

At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 6:24:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree that the Pistons seem to be a stronger team this year than last year. They have more depth. That said, they also still have Flip Saunders as their coach and they have yet to replace what Ben Wallace gave them defensively in the two years that they made it to the Finals. I don't say that Saunders is a bad coach but I don't think that he is a great coach, either--and I think that his players sense this, which creates some problems when things get tight and he wants to do things one way but some of his players want to try something else.

You can get into the paint against Detroit now in ways that you could not when Ben Wallace was in his hey day. LeBron showed that in the 2006 and 2007 playoffs and the Sixers showed it this year though they were not consistent enough to do it for a whole series.

Detroit has more "good" players than Cleveland but the Pistons don't have one great, transcendent player. As Chris Webber said on TNT in a discussion about the Lakers past and present, I'd take one Shaq (in his prime) over five Gasols. Similarly, I'd take one LeBron over four Pistons All-Stars--matter of fact, that is exactly what I picked last year and I was right.

I think that KG will do his all-around thing, Pierce will carry the scoring load and the Celtics team defense will make things tough for Detroit, particularly in the fourth quarters.

At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 12:54:00 PM, Blogger beep said...

Now, if you talk about Flip Saunders, Doc Rivers isn't good coach either. And I think Flip may have learnt from his last year mistakes, while Doc struggles, especially on the road.
And if there was no trade in Cleveland, I doubt they would lose this 7th game, oh, I doubt there would be 7 games.
I think Cavs would be harder team for Pistons to beat, even now.

Anyway if Sheed is focused, he'll shut down Garnett, and he may be unstoppable on offense. But it remains to be seen if he wants vacation more or finals.

At Tuesday, May 20, 2008 7:40:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I expressed my skepticism about the trade at the time that it happened because I thought that a healthy LeBron-Z-Gooden-Hughes-Pavlovic-Varejao-
Gibson rotation was pretty strong. I agree that this crew may have had a better chance to beat Boston but of course there is no guarantee that Gooden and Hughes would have been healthy (and Gibson ended up missing game seven due to injury).

I think that Rivers is a good coach. I evaluate coaches by how well their teams defend and how hard they play. The Celtics are the best defensive team in the NBA and they play very hard on most nights. I was very impressed with them when I saw them in person this season and that caused me to revise my initial preseason skepticism about this team.

Sheed has the ability to match up with KG but I question if Sheed is hungrier for a ring than KG is. I expect a lot of hard fought games but, as I said in the post, I think that Boston will win and that it won't take seven games.


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