EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

May 21, 2008

Celts hang tough: Boston takes full advantage of ailing Billups

Bill Burt

BOSTON — Here's what we learned in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Nothing.

I take that back. We learned the Detroit Pistons had better hope and pray that the stinky ointment rubbed on the back of Chauncey Billups' right hamstring does the trick.

Billups stunk about as bad as the ointment as the top-seeded Celtics beat the second-seeded Pistons, 88-79, last night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

It's been awhile since the Celtics played meaningful basketball in late May, so it might take a day to learn the ritual of not getting too excited or too down after a game.

The Celtics had to win last night, and they did. They were the better team, on both sides of the ball, from box to wire. Their defense again took control of the game early — the Pistons didn't score their first point until 8:05 of the first quarter — and the offense was decent.

The Pistons had to show up because that's what the NBA ordered, and they did.

The fact that the Celtics jumped out fast was a good sign, considering the amount of energy they expended on Sunday and really the last two weeks.

With the bar set probably a tad high and New England nervously twitching with each road loss, winning at home hasn't been enough.

The well-rested Pistons have been to six straight conference championships so there was nobody in the Pistons locker room boo-hooing after the loss, though one particular player was as miserable as ever.

"We alright," said forward Rasheed Wallace. "It ain't nothin'. One game. ... Now leave me alone."

There were several curse words mixed in, but you get the message. The Pistons know the deal.

Win one game in Boston and you are in good position to win the series.

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