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Together again after series of events

Pistons rested, but Celtics feel ready

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / May 20, 2008

WALTHAM - While the Celtics ground out a second straight seventh-game victory to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, the well-rested Pistons calmly laced up their sneakers for a late practice at their suburban Detroit training facility after watching Sunday's game on television.

The Celtics have played every other day since April 26 (Game 3 against Atlanta) and will be playing their 11th game in 22 days tonight when they face Detroit in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Banknorth Garden.

It will be the Pistons' first game since eliminating Orlando a week ago. Do the Celtics need rest or is the rhythm a benefit for them? Will the rest be beneficial for the Pistons or make them rusty?

The debate over rhythm vs. rest has been a hot topic.

"With a team that has been off for a week, you don't know if there is going to be rest or if there is going to rust," said Cavaliers forward Ben Wallace, an ex-Piston whose team was eliminated by Boston Sunday.

If the Celtics were weary, you couldn't tell by the way they acted after practice yesterday. The entire team was taking extra shots, and no one seemed to be in a rush. Ray Allen had a spirited one-on-one contest with Sam Cassell. Kevin Garnett engaged in a shooting drill he usually does during shootaround. There was a lot of energy, excitement, and smiles in the building.

"It's not like you're playing back to back," said coach Doc Rivers. "It's not like you're playing every day. It's a good rhythm for players. We don't do much. We watch film. So I think they're pretty fresh."

Said Allen, "I would rather have the rhythm. With the rhythm, you don't have to guess from one day to the next. With the rest, you're trying to keep everyone quick and focused."

Since eliminating Orlando, the Pistons have taken two days off and practiced four days. Two of the practices were Boston-specific.

Pistons coach Flip Saunders believes the solid practices will keep the team's rhythm intact.

"We'll see," said Saunders. "We've had good, sharp, crisp practices. We haven't been stagnant. We haven't been bored. I think it can work both ways."

With his strong respect for the Celtics in mind, Detroit veteran guard Lindsey Hunter isn't getting too excited about all the rest his team has had.

"We can't go into this looking at it and saying, 'Oh, that's an advantage for us,' " said Hunter. "We've got to go in and play this team like they swept everybody.

"They were the best team in the NBA. They didn't accomplish that by chance. We'll come in as though they're fresh as we are, and try and do what we've got to do."

Pistons guard Chauncey Billups missed the last two games in the Orlando series with a strained right hamstring, but he is healthy and will be playing his first game since May 7. Billups likes the fact that Boston has gotten a lot of media attention, and the Pistons are viewed as underdogs.

"We love being the hunter," he said. "That's when we're in our best mode, the hunter."

"Either the rest will help them or the rest will hurt them," said Rivers. "Either the playing will help us or the playing will hurt us.

"But I don't think either team knows the answer to that. I really don't. I like our rhythm. I've said that for a week now, I like the every other day, to get rhythm to get into it."

Said Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace, "We still got that fire under our butts. We're still going to go out there and do what we've got to do."

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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