blog: Boston survives big scare, takes 3-2 in series
Vail CO, Colorado
EDITOR’S NOTE : The following report was taken from television as an exercise for a Battle Mountain High School journalism student.
After watching their team squander a 17 point third quarter lead against the ever dangerous Detroit Pistons, Celtic fans in Boston Garden were brought to the edge of their seats as the game drew close in the final five minutes.
After a few minutes of uncertainty, the team that has been atop the league all season long delivered for their fans with a 106-102 victory over Detroit to take a 3-2 series lead.
It was a huge win for Boston, who has struggled mightily on the road during the playoffs, going just 1-7. Boston’s stalwart small forward Paul Pierce recognized the game’s importance, saying in a post game interview, “We said before the game that this was like a game 7.”
Sitting next to him at the podium, reigning defensive player of the year Kevin Garnett added, “We don’t win this game and we back ourselves into a corner.” Garnett did his part to ensure the crucial victory, putting up 33 points on 11-17 shooting, including a banked three pointer that beat the shot clock late in the first half, helping push the Celtics to a six point halftime lead.
Another member of Boston’s “Big Three” contributed greatly as well, as sharpshooter Ray Allen finally got his stroke going, putting up 29 points and going 5-6 from beyond the three point arc. This was quite a breakout for the nine time All-Star after he went for just 10.9 points per game on 19% three point shooting in his previous 12 games.
“I never really looked at it like I was in a slump, I just needed to get into a rhythm,” Allen said in a post game interview, “as a shooter, you just keep shooting and never get down on yourself.”
But it wasn’t just the “Big Three” that stepped up last night, as fellow starters Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins turned in impressive performances. Perkins was absolutely dominant on the boards, single handedly outrebounding Detroit in the first half and finishing with 18 points and 16 rebounds, to go with 2 blocks and 2 steals.
“I just played my game,” Perkins said. “When you have the ‘Big Three’ you know what you’re gonna get, so I just try to come out, do what I do, and provide energy.”
Rondo, despite shooting just 3-14 for 7 points, played the aggressive game his coaches have been wanting from him and put up 13 assists. Throughout the series, the Pistons have double teamed Boston’s stars to leave Rondo open, urging Rondo to beat them by himself. Rondo responded tonight, driving aggressively early and often, and though he missed a few layups, he opened up the floor for the big men like Perkins to come in and dominate.
The game stayed fairly tight throughout the first two quarters, with the two teams never separated by more than 8 points. After Detroit put together a 13-2 run to take an 8 point lead early in the second, the Celtics responded with a 14-1 run of their own to take a 52-46 halftime lead. Aided by Allen’s threes and Perkins’ interior prowess, the Celtics pulled ahead in the early third quarter, extending their lead to as many as 17.
After the game, Detroit head coach Flip Saunders commented on Perkins’ dominance that helped Boston out-rebound Detroit 42-25 for the game. “We had the bigs on the perimeter covering Garnett, so Perkins dominated. When you get beat on the boards the way we did, it takes a toll on you.”
In addition to Garnett’s success from the perimeter, Detroit center Rasheed Wallace’s unwillingness to go inside was a big factor in the extreme rebounding differential. Wallace, despite going 6-9 from beyond the arc, only attempted one two point field goal, a perimeter jump shot that missed, leaving Wallace with 18 points for the game.
Thought it seemed a 17 point lead would be enough for Boston to hang on, Detroit began slowly chipping away at the lead in the late third and early fourth quarter. By the end of the third, the lead was down to 13 at 84-71 and it reached as low as 8 in the first five minutes of the fourth. After a stretch of four consecutive Boston turnovers,
Detroit brought the lead down to four with under five minutes to play on a deep three pointer from Chauncey Billups. Three minutes later, rookie Rodney Stuckey put away two free throws to again pull within four. Stuckey followed that up with a corner three pointer that put the game at 100-99 with just 1:23 remaining.
After the teams traded twos, Allen’s two free throws pushed the lead back to three, and Boston decided to foul early to prevent a tying three point attempt. With 8 seconds left, Stuckey went to the line, intending to make the first and miss the second in hopes of getting a rebound. He did the opposite, sealing the game for a game 5 Celtics victory.
Billups led the way for Detroit with 26 points, with Rip Hamilton right behind him with 25. The victory leaves Boston with two opportunities to put away one victory and head to the NBA Finals for the first time in 21 years. Boston coach Doc Rivers commented on the next two games in a post game press conference, saying, “I hope we don’t think like (we have two games to win one).”
Billups admitted that winning the series will be a challenge but that the Pistons are prepared. “We’re gonna come out, do what we do, we’re gonna claw, we’re gonna fight, and try to make it back here for game 7.”
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