by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

BOSTON – It may not be the old Garden, with the rats and the bad air and the stifling summer heat, but this new Garden has been magical to this year’s Boston Celtics. And now that magic is done. Whatever role the parquet floor played in the 2008 playoffs – allowing the Celtics to go a perfect 9-0 – was smashed Thursday night by the only team these days that seems unaffected by geography, or anything else for that matter.

Beat the House.

The Pistons had to do it at some point if they wanted to win the series, and they did it in Game 2 the old fashioned way: They tried harder.

Gone were the late-arriving feet of Game 1, and the wide-open shots surrendered, and the lack of help. Back came the smothering dance that Detroit likes to call “defense.” Intense, hand-in-the-face, chest-to-chest defense. The Celtics coughed up the ball 10 times in the first half, one shy of their total in Game 1.

“All they did is up the intensity guys!” Doc Rivers implored his team during a time-out – captured by the TV cameras. “That’s all they did.”

Isn’t that all they had to do.

Beat the House. This was a game that required full batteries, a volume knob turned way up, and a total ability to forget anything negative. The Celtics can revive themselves quickly with blocks and long jumpers and their crowd gets right into it – so you are never safely ahead. Boston scored the first three baskets of the game. The Pistons fought back. Boston erased a seven-point halftime deficit to go up by four. The Pistons fought back. Boston trimmed an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter to two – thanks to the reawakening of Ray Allen’s jump shot.

The Pistons fought back.

And finally, when Rip Hamilton came racing down the lane, past Kevin Garnett, past all of them, rising into the fire, the shot clock about to expire, and he pushed a shot one-handed that somehow rolled into the net – they had knocked back the darling team of the NBA. And their four walls.

“Taking care of business,” Hamilton called it after the 103-97 victory.

Beat the House. Heroes all around for Detroit

They did it as a team, and as young and old. Old? How about Antonio McDyess? After the first five minutes – in which the Pistons looked pretty bad – he ripped that plastic mask off, and it was as if he removed leg shackles, gravity and the aging process as well. McDyess, 33, was moving like mad, defending Garnett with arms, thighs, torso and quick footwork. He was shifting around on offense, hitting the Pistons’ first jump shot, hitting a fadeaway, rolling off the defense for a lay-up, taking a give-and-go from Rodney Stuckey for a three-point play. He hit huge jumpers down the fourth-quarter stretch, standing tall against Boston’s crashing waves. He finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals.

Sometimes people forget that McDyess has all the motivation of the Celtics combined. He is the lone Pistons starter without a ring. He comes to work every day wondering why he couldn’t have joined this team one year earlier, when they took the crown. Garnett and Paul Pierce may never have seen the NBA Finals, but McDyess has seen them, seen the end of the rainbow, and watched another team slide down it.

Which is worse? And the walls come crumbling down

And then, the kid. Rodney Stuckey is only 22, and he’s getting better game by game. He had some nerveless moments in Game 1. And he grew up more in Game 2. He made passes. Smart assists. He hit pull-up jumpers. And he did what every Detroit fan has been screaming about for days – he drove the hoop. He finished with 13 point in 14 minutes, with three assists. He is promise being realized.

And so are the Pistons. This was a very tough game to win, folks. In Boston, you feel like you’re playing team, legend, fans and karma. But The Pistons had a few things historically going for them Thursday. They had won eight straight Game 2’s in the playoffs. They hadn’t lost two in a row this postseason.

And they are not afraid of the road.

This, if the Pistons ultimately go on to win the title, will likely be the reason why. On Thursday, McDyess forgot that he was old, Stuckey forgot that he was young, and Detroit forgot that playoff teams don’t win in Boston.

Beat the House. Now all that remains is who gets to four wins first. And that is what should determine a title. Not a building.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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