Facing a Celtic team that had not lost at home in the playoffs, and a noisy TD Banknorth Garden sellout crowd of 18,624 that was constantly exhorted by the electronic scoreboard to make more noise, the Detroit Pistons reacted with precision and poise. Spreading their offense to all corners, the Pistons last night ran off an efficient 103-97 victory in Game 2 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals, which move to Detroit for Game 3 tomorrow night.
Guard Richard Hamilton led the Pistons with 25 points, shooting 7 for 16 from the field and a cool 10 for 12 from the line. But he was just one of six Pistons in double figures as they moved the ball around and found shots from every angle. When the Pistons picked up their pace, the Celtics remained a step behind.
"Everybody knows what they do defensively," Hamilton said of the Celtics, "how they load up on the strong side. The thing that we did tonight that was different than Game 1 was that when we made cuts and we made moves, it was all in motion.
"It wasn't just like a guy got the ball on the wing, allowed them to set their defense, one guy in the corner.
"They're good at that. We just kept motion, coming off screens, coming off curls, making them react. I thought the guys did an excellent job of moving the ball."
Detroit point guard Chauncey Billups picked up 19 points, a big jump from his 9 in Game 1, and it was, perhaps, his calm demeanor that set the tempo for the Pistons. The 31-year-old drove to the basket on Detroit's first possession, drawing a foul from Kendrick Perkins and sinking both free throws.
The Pistons had particular success from deep in the right corner, where the Celtics seemed to allow them to linger to line up shots.
"One thing I told Chaunce," Hamilton said, "you ain't got to be overaggressive out there. You can take your time and be the captain of our ship and we'll try to do a good job of helping you out on the offensive end and the defensive end. I thought tonight he just stayed poised, directed us, and put guys in position to succeed."
Hamilton ripped off 8 points in the second quarter, all at the line, as Detroit went ahead, 41-36. A minute later, his smooth 16-foot jump shot made it 46-39. While the Celtics' Big Three of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett have never strayed from the spotlight, Hamilton said the lesser-known group of Pistons is no less dangerous.
"With them always loading up on our strong side," Hamilton said, "our bigs are going to have wide-open shots because they hedge out overaggressively. We've just got to find them so they can make a play."
When the Celtics mustered a run to close the deficit to 90-88 in the fourth quarter, Hamilton took a feed from Billups and dropped in a 10-foot pull-up. Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace added a pair of jump shots and then Hamilton was back, this time with a 12-foot running jumper.
"We know what each of us can do, so we play at our strength," said Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey, who came off the bench to score 13 points. "We don't try to play at our weaknesses. I know when I'm in the game with Rip [Hamilton] he likes to come off screens and he doesn't stop running. When I'm in there with Rip, I try to have him coming off screens and try to get him open like that."
Barbara Matson can be reached at email@example.com.