Then came tonight.
Tonight was the C's best performance of the playoffs. That's right, I said it. The. Best. Nearly everything that made me love this team during the regular season was on full display tonight, and against a very game Pistons team that wanted this win badly. Most all the hallmarks of the Celtics We Know came out tonight, including the following:
- Ball rotation - The C's ranked third in the league in assist ratio (+3.58/game), a stat made more amazing when taken into account that the two teams ahead of them in those rankings had point guards named Steve Nash and Deron Williams. Without a high-assist point guard, the C's success in that department therefore spoke to everyone's ability to find the open man at all times, asfive Celtics averaged at least 3 assists per game. Tonight showed to be a prime example, as the C's out-assisted the Pistons 27-15. Against a halfcourt defense like Detroit's, finding the open man is key, and the C's ability to do so tonight was a big reason for their win.
- Perimeter defense - Hamilton missed the only three he took tonight, and Billups was held to only nine points. Wallace went 0-3 beyond the arc too, eliminating a weapon they often use. Still, Detroit's success feeds off of their guard play, and those guards were completely locked down tonight. Billups' +/- rating was a minus-18. I will now be sending a bouquet of roses to the doorstep of one Rajon Rondo. In fact...
- Rondo's play - 11 points, seven assists, and five steals in 39 minutes of play. More importantly, Billups seems more hurt than he initially let on, leading to a more confident (few other PGs in the league build off confidence like Rondo does) and defensively alert (five steals!) Rondo.
- Garnett taking high-percentage shots - KG's 26-9-4 stat line was impressive, but what impressed me more was how those stats were accumulated. Garnett generally kept his back to the basket and played like a traditional post against Detroit, and the Pistons were absolutely helpless to stop him (Wallace especially looked OLD on defense). Not coincidentally, "KG staying down low" has a lot to do with the C's winning games, and will especially be a factor in this series.
- The second unit - held onto leads and found different ways to contribute. Leon Powe even made an appearance, though frankly, he should really be playing more. There's nothing that Jason Maxiell can do that Powe can't do better, yet Maxiell gets all the hype. House and PJ Brown looked great as well.
- The Sneering Corpse of Ray Allen - it's sad when the crowd is cheering for him out of pity. He's not even trying to shoot anymore, which is unfortunate, because jump shooting is his only discernable skill. He's a severe liability at this point, and while early-game attempts to get him involved in the offense are cute, they're akin to letting the retarded kid join the kickball game to let him feel involved. At some point very soon, Allen will either have to do a complete 180 or find his ass on the bench for most of the game.
- Antonio McDyess - Dude went for 14 and 11, despite the fact that he's on his eighteenth ACL and is roughly 97 years old. I guess if you're gonna let any Piston beat you it should be McDyess, but still, there's no excuse at all for letting him go 14-11.
- Three-point shooting - Detroit's eventually gonna start hitting their threes, and the C's are going to therefore have to answer them. Shooting 2-9 beyond the arc (0-4 from Pierce) ain't gonna get it done. Allen took only ONE three tonight by the way. He, of course, missed. Because he's a zombie. A sneering zombie.