Due to the intense series against the Pistons, I apologize for holding off the Four-Point Play until the series was over. In this weekend-NBA Finals edition of the Four-Point Play, I will recap the Celtics Eastern Conference Championship win, who I think really stepped up in big spots, discuss what happens with the Pistons next, and a give a small preview with my initial thoughts on the NBA Finals against the Lakers. A full-fledged NBA Finals preview can be read in the next edition of the Four-Point Play (June 4).
1. The Celtics defeated the Pistons 89-81 in Game 6 on Friday night, to win the Eastern Conference Championship 4-2 and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987.
- First, I must mention that the rare four-point play (just like this column’s title) was almost pulled off by Paul Pierce, but the referee made an atrocious call, reversing the Celtics’ fortunes. Pierce was ready to shoot a three-pointer, but he waited for Rip Hamilton to contest the shot so he could draw the foul. Instead, the ref called an offensive foul which was so preposterous. If anything, it’s a traveling call or a no-call, but not a foul in Pierce. Ugh.
- I think the Pistons just ran out of gas. When Kendrick Perkins started playing well, they were just overmatched on the glass. When you get out-rebounded by almost nine per game in the series, that’s a tremendous advantage for the Celtics and ultimately was a big reason in winning in six games.
2. Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins were my MVP’s for the series-clinching victory.
- Paul Pierce showed tremendous poise after the aforementioned ridiculous call to finish with 27 points (12 in the fourth quarter). The old Pierce (including the Pierce that played against Atlanta) would’ve overreacted and been called for a technical. He really grew up in this game, especially in the final period to push the Celtics to their first NBA Finals berth since 1987.
- Kendrick Perkins played great defense all series, especially in Game 6. Perk finished with seven points, seven rebounds, and two blocked shots. He had a clutch block in the closing minutes of the game to keep the Pistons from scoring. Go Perk!
3. The Pistons exited the Eastern Conference finals for the third straight season after two straight NBA Finals appearances.
- There’s talk within the organization that Flip Saunders may lose his job for not getting the Pistons over the hump. He can’t help that the Pistons ran into Shaq and Dwayne Wade in 2006, LeBron James in 2007, and the New Big Three in 2008. Flip has one year left on his four-year contract.
- GM Joe Dumars may also shake up the roster a bit to center it around young players like Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stuckey. I imagine that Rasheed Wallace could be gone and perhaps Richard Hamilton as well. Or, they may decide to cut ties with Chauncey Billups (which I think would be a mistake of Rick Pitino-magnitude).
4. The Celtics and Lakers will face off in a match of the NBA’s two most-storied franchises in the NBA Finals. The Celtics have 16 championships and the Lakers have 14.
- Without much analysis, I think the Celtics should win this in seven games thanks to their home court advantage. The Lakers are a talented team led by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and co. and should present the Celtics some matchup problems, but I think the teams are so evenly matched that the series will go seven games.
- I think Perk will have trouble will Pau Gasol and Pierce may have trouble with Kobe, but Kevin Garnett should easily handle Lamar Odom and Rajon Rondo should easily get by Derek Fisher. I wonder how Doc will plan to use Ray Allen. You could have him guard Kobe or attempt to guard Vladimir Radmonivic, who probably matches up better with Allen due to his tendency to hang out beyond the arc.
- Stay tuned for my full NBA Finals preview this coming Wednesday, June 4.
Tags: Celtics, Four-Point Play, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Finals