|Kevin Garnett tallies 2 of his 26 points despite some in-your-face defense by Detroit's Rasheed Wallace. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
For a team that has played 15 games in 30 days, the Celtics last night seemed to put any questions to rest about how they would respond against a rested Pistons team.
Nearly four minutes into Game 1, the Celtics were ahead, 8-0, and looking like the rested team. Granted, the lead was short lived, but what followed was an offensive performance that stayed a step ahead of the Pistons in an 88-79 victory.
"We let them know we're not tired, and we're going to be here all four quarters," Celtics guard Eddie House said. "The starters came out and played a great role in that and they set the table for us and the subs came in and tried to maintain what they started."
In Game 7 against Cleveland, Paul Pierce carried the Celtics with 41 points in a duel against LeBron James (45). The game left Pierce's teammates in such awe, forward Kendrick Perkins said it was like watching a video game.
The Celtics were only one day removed from that victory, yet Pierce didn't want to give the game too much credit for how the Celtics came out last night.
"I just look at it as 0-0, brand-new series," said Pierce, who had 22 points. "You've got Detroit coming in, well-rested. This was a perfect game for them to come in and try to steal one, and we were aware of that.
"They probably figured we were tired from the last series, while they've been practicing, and we just came out with extra focus and extra energy at the start of the game because we knew they would try to come out and try to get the first game."
Last night, it was Kevin Garnett who set the tone early and finished with a game-high 26 points.
Everything seemed to work with the offense, but the Celtics are still waiting for Ray Allen to find his shot again. The sellout crowd seemed to be behind him every time he had the ball, fans rising to their feet in encouragement, but the shots either clanged off the rim or caught nothing but air.
Allen was 3 of 10 for 9 points, often moving into the paint to attempt to score instead of settling for the jump shot.
"I had some good looks early, and so after they didn't go down, I started saying, 'Just drive, just keep driving to the paint and get to the free throw line,' " he said.
Allen did get to the line three times and converted each free throw. The paint was kind to the Celtics, as half of their points were collected inside. Point guard Rajon Rondo had seven assists in helping spread around the ball, and he added 11 points.
"I think between the first two rounds, in my opinion it was probably the most fluid game we played on both ends of the floor," Allen said. "We never really got stuck. The tempo was great."
The Pistons, on the other hand, did not seem to find a rhythm in enough time.
"We just didn't seem to be in a good flow," coach Flip Saunders said. "They may have had something to do with that. Just couldn't get up over the hump.
"We didn't get into our offense quick enough. Defensively, we were a step slow on rotations. They shot the ball well. I told our guys that as bad as we played we had opportunities."
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org