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May 23, 2008

Pressure's on now: After losing home-court advantage, Celts become road worrier

Bill Burt

BOSTON — Those make-believe ruby red slippers the Boston Celtics have been prancing around in the past three weeks — "There's no place like home." — have been exposed.

But instead of the Wicked Witch of the West of "The Wizard of Oz" fame doing the exposing, it was guys named Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace.

So this is playoff basketball.

You go into a hostile environment, like the Detroit Pistons did, and win 103-97. Wow, what a novel concept.

Everything has changed for the Celtics in their first playoff run together. They have to win outside of Boston.

"I've said it many times, we're going to have to win the road," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We've gotten away with it thus far. That's been taken away. And if we want what we want, we have to win on the road. And that's just the way it is."

While Rivers was throwing the lion's share of the blame on the Celtics defense — they were late in many of their switches and weren't in the correct position for loose balls and offensive rebounds late in the game, according to Rivers — I wonder if the crediting the Pistons is a more accurate assessment.

Yes, the Celtics staple, their defense, couldn't make a stop when it mattered. In fact, you could argue that the Celtics offense, which at times has looked anemic and confused, played its best game.

"We shot 48 percent (and) we lost the game," said Celts forward Kevin Garnett, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds.

The seed for last night's result may have been planted after Tuesday night's tilt, won handily by the Celtics, 88-79. The Pistons calmly left the TD Banknorth Garden pooh-pooing the opener and the Celtics home playoff supremacy (9-0 before last night).

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