AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - This is a big lesson the Pistons learned the hard way: Expend too much energy in the regular season, and beware of tired players in the playoffs.
The Celtics' starters racked up big minutes in the regular season en route to an NBA-best 66-16 record, and now have endured two grueling seven-game playoff series.
Celtics stars Paul Pierce and Ray Allen each averaged 35.9 minutes during the regular season. By contrast, Richard Hamilton played the most for the Pistons, averaging 33.7 during the regular season.
Allen has looked a little dead on his feet during the playoffs, shooting only 38.5 percent from the field. Pierce has been inconsistent.
"Those [Celtics] guys ate up a lot of minutes those first 60 games," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "A lot of those guys did. When you eat that many minutes, we've gone through that.
"When those minutes get eaten up early in the season, you're maybe going to try to get the rest late, but once you eat them up and your legs get a little bit dead - they're there."
Stuckey in placeA year ago, Pistons rookie Rodney Stuckey was a college kid. He was working out hard, hoping and praying he'd be picked high in the NBA draft.
Stuckey is now waiting to play in his first Eastern Conference finals.
"It's a great situation - look where I am," said Stuckey, with a big smile. "Now being a part of this, it's a blessing."
Stuckey said he passed the week between playoff rounds by keeping his conditioning up and taking extra shooting sessions.
His role will change, since he no longer needs to sub for the injured Chauncey Billups. Stuckey is back to coming off the bench.
"That's fine," Stuckey said. "Do whatever the team needs me to do. If Coach asks me to start, I do it. If I need to come off the bench, I do it."
Alumni reunionIn one corner: Hamilton, the Pistons' 6-foot-7-inch shooting guard and University of Connecticut alumnus.
In the other corner: Allen, the Celtics' 6-5 shooting guard and UConn alum.
The two are quite familiar with each other. Allen, older by three years, served as Hamilton's player chaperone when Hamilton visited the Storrs campus as a high schooler.
"I'm excited," Hamilton said. "It's always a challenge, just the fact we went to the same school, things like that. When the ball's thrown up, you don't even think of it. You just want to get the win."