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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

McDyess Leads the Way as Pistons Beat Celtics, 94-75

Antonio McDyess had a flashback to how he played before knee injuries limited his athleticism and now Pistons fans are partying like it's 1999--that was when McDyess made the All-NBA Third team for the first and only time, averaging a career-high 21.2 ppg and 10.7 rpg. McDyess had 21 points and 16 rebounds as Detroit defeated Boston 94-75 to even the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2. Those numbers, once routine for McDyess, represent playoff season-highs in both categories. McDyess is the only Detroit starter who was not a member of the 2004 championship team and he is one Piston whose effort and focus are constantly at a high level; his mind and heart are always willing, though his body may fail him from time to time. In this game, the Pistons fed off of his energy and played harder than the Celtics, whose trademark this season was playing harder than their opponents, particularly on defense. Richard Hamilton added 20 points and seven assists. Chauncey Billups struggled with his shot (10 points on 3-12 shooting) but he had seven assists and no turnovers; his backup Rodney Stuckey also did not shoot well (three points on 1-4 shooting) but contributed five assists against just two turnovers. The lack of scoring from the point guard position did not hurt Detroit because Boston's Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell were even less productive, combining for four points on 2-11 shooting plus four assists and two turnovers.

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce led Boston with 16 points each but Garnett shot just 6-16 from the field and Pierce was even worse (3-14). Ray Allen's game two reemergence as a deadeye shooter seems like it happened a long time ago; he scored 11 points on 2-8 shooting. The Celtics shot a rim bending 21-66 (.318) from the field but they made 32 of 39 free throws and that parade to the charity striped enabled them to stay in contact for most of the game.

The Celtics led the NBA in defensive field goal percentage this season (.419) but you sure could not find much evidence of that in this game. The Pistons shot 36-70 (.514) from the field, with McDyess (8-14), Hamilton (8-10), Rasheed Wallace (14 points on 6-9 shooting) and Jason Maxiell (14 points on 6-6 shooting) leading the way. The Celtics held a slight edge on the glass (38-34) but points in the paint were dead even (24) after Boston enjoyed double digit margins in that category in each of the first three game of this series. The Celtics' blueprint for success in this series involves having an edge in each of those three areas.

So what are we to make of this series? The teams have alternated wins four straight times and both teams have achieved a road victory. If that form holds then the Celtics will need a third straight game seven triumph at home in order to advance to the NBA Finals. However, I am going to stick with my original prediction of Boston ending the series in six games because I believe in the logic that led me to that conclusion: the Pistons are a maddeningly inconsistent team that follows up great wins with flat, indifferent performances and their defense in the paint has not consistently held up against elite teams in the playoffs the past few years. Despite shooting a terrible percentage and playing subpar defense, the Celtics were still in contention in game four well into the fourth quarter--the final margin is a bit deceptive because the Pistons scored 11 points in the final 2:18 to break open a game that was well contested for the first 46 minutes. At home, the Celtics' shots will fall and their defensive intensity will be much greater. In this year's playoffs more than ever we have definitely seen that, to borrow a phrase from the financial markets, "past performance does not guarantee future results"--a team can win by a double digit margin only to lose in similar fashion in the very next game.

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:12 AM

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