BOSTON — The big question heading into last night's Celtics-Pistons series opener was would Paul Pierce be anywhere near full strength?
After his heroic and draining 41-point effort in Game 7 vs. the Cavaliers Sunday, Pierce wasted little time setting the tone, hitting a 15-foot fadeaway jumper over Tayshaun Prince 2:39 into the game to put the Celtics ahead, 6-0.
He ended up playing nearly 11 minutes in the first quarter, scoring four points.
While he didn't light up the scoreboard last night, Pierce was as consistent as he was on Sunday. He scored five more points in the second quarter, nine in third quarter and five more in the final quarter to give him 22 points for the game over nearly 44 minutes.
If he was still aching from his epic battle with LeBron James it certainly didn't show.
Pierce, who was 9 of 18 from the floor, also chipped in with six rebounds and six assists.
"You could tell Paul's energy level was through the roof," said Celts center Kendrick Perkins. "Every time he is, like, the man, he's hard to stop. Not too many people (were) screaming Paul Pierce is a superstar until he dropped 41 the other day, but I (have) known P is superstar for a long time. He's on the stage now and he's shining."
Lowe returns to Garden
Rob Lowe was back for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Los Angeles Lakers fan was at Game 5 of the Cleveland series, missing Game 7 to return home to Los Angeles.
"I had to go back home. I would rather have been here in person," said Lowe. "It was great game to watch. I saw every minute of it."
As for the possible Lakers-Celtics matchup, Lowe smiled.
"It's going to happen," said Lowe. "I won't miss any of those games."
Faces in the crowd
The New England Patriots continue to make their presence felt with coach Bill Belichick the headliner last night.
Belichick was shown on the Jumbotron several times throughout breaks in the action. He waved to the cameras a few times, getting the loudest ovation outside of the game action.
Noseguard Vince Wilfork was wearing a Kevin Garnett jersey while Kevin Faulk was with his wife in the front row.
Red Sox majority owner John Henry in the front row. Minority owner Tom Werner was also in attendance.
Sign of the times
The best sign was held up by a boy who appeared to be about 10 years old:
"I gave up my IPod to be here."
Renewing old acquaintances
They both left Minnesota for the same reason. They couldn't meet expectations.
Now Celtics star Kevin Garnett and Pistons coach Flip Saunders are meeting for the right to play for an NBA championship.
Before the game, before Garnett high-fived the Pistons at center court, he went to the Pistons bench to shake hands with Saunders.
"You can always put in the books that he's going to get over 20 points, over 10 rebounds and five assists," said Saunders.
Did you know ...
Detroit coach Flip Saunders was captain of the University of Minnesota team with his former boss, Kevin McHale, the president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves. Saunders was the shooting guard on the team with McHale, Ray Williams and Mychal Thompson. They finished 24-3 in Saunders' senior season.
No treys for Ray
Ray Allen's struggles from behind the 3-point line continued. He only attempted one shot from behind the arc, missing an opportunity to put the Pistons away (the Celts led 55-46 at the time).
Allen finished with nine points, but did have a key assist in the final seconds of the third quarter, hitting Eddie House, who drained the 3-pointer to put the Celtics ahead 69-56.
Allen hasn't made a 3-pointer in five of his last eight games.
Point guard switch
The point guard battle, Rajon Rondo vs. Chauncey Billups, never materialized, at least when Rondo had the ball. That's because the Pistons decided to put Billups on Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton on Rondo.
While the Pistons didn't admit it, the fact that Billups' hamstring is not close to 100 percent was probably the reason.
"We just wanted to change things up," said Hamilton.
The correct answer would have been Rondo is too fast for Billups right now.
Quotes of the game
"I wouldn't say rust. Rust has nothing to do with blown coverages," said Pistons guard Lindsey Hunter about Detroit's slow start after their six days off.
"No, because I think he can make those. You can't give him too many dare shots, as I'd call it. When he's made shots, they've been successful," said Pistons coach Flip Saunders when asked if his team encouraged Rajon Rondo to take the open jumpers he hit last night.
"I thought we went through one stretch in the second quarter where we went away from (moving the ball) and got jump-shot happy, pick-and-roll happy. And Kevin (Garnett) was part of that," said Doc Rivers about his team's offensive lull in the second quarter.
Celts-Pistons Game 1 summary
He's got drive: While Ray Allen's woes from the outside continued, all three of his made baskets came when he drove to the hoop. "After (my shots didn't go down) I started saying, 'Just drive. Just keep driving to the paint and get to the free throw line.' "
Stat of the game: 27 assists. The Celtics passed brilliantly, while the Pistons had only 15 assists.
Stat of the game II: The Celtics had 44 points in the paint compared to only 22 for the Pistons.
No crying foul: One of the biggest differences between last night's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals and the Game 7 the Celtics played on Sunday was the fouls. There were 54 fouls whistled on Sunday and only 41 (21 on the Celts and 20 for the Pistons) yesterday. There were 69 free throws attempted the final against the Cavs and only 48 last night.
Trey again: Both the Celtics and Pistons are fine deep-shooting teams. That was not the case last night as the Celtics only made 2 of 9 from the behind the arc compared to 4 for 11 by the Pistons.
Crazy eights: The Celtics scored eight straight points to start the game, the Pistons went on an 8-0 run to take a 13-12 lead and the C's answered with yet another 8-0 spurt.
Quote of the game: "We don't care about them being undefeated," said Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace when told the Celtics are now 9-0 at home in the playoffs.