Why the Celtics reached the Finals

NBA.com writes: “5) They finally figured out how to win on the road. After failing to do so against Cleveland and Atlanta, Boston managed to pull off two victories in Detroit against one of the best home teams in basketball. 4) Outside of a disappointing Game 2, the C’s stayed strong at home. Boston went undefeated on its homecourt in its first two series and didn’t blink after dropping one at the Garden. 3) After having a rough postseason, Ray Allen finally awoke for big performances in Games 5 and 6. The “Big Three” was starting to look more like a dynamic duo, but Allen pulled himself together in the final two games of the series, erupting for 29 points in Game 5 and posting 17 on Friday. 2) The Celtics figured out how to disrupt every aspect of Tayshaun Prince’s game. Boston held him to 6.3 points per game over the prior three contests and didn’t stop in Game 6. He struggled, going 3-of-10 from the field on Friday. Even after coming up with a crucial steal in the final minutes, he reverted back to his abnormal form as James Posey came from behind, swiping the ball straight out of his hands and dashing Detroit’s final hopes. The staple of Pistons’ basketball looked anything but against Boston. 1) Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. When you combine the “Truth” with the “Big Ticket” and put them against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, you get 44 points per game and a 4-2 series victory.”

May 30: Celtics 89, Pistons 81

The AP reports: Paul Pierce scored 27 points, Ray Allen had 17 and Kevin Garnett added 16 to lift the Boston Celtics to an 89-81 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals… After playing two Game 7s, the Celtics will get a needed break before hosting Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Thursday night… The Pistons blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost in Game 6 of the conference finals for the third straight year. They were eliminated on their home court for the first time during a six-year run that included a trip to the conference finals each year and the 2004 title… Chauncey Billups played well and Richard Hamilton scored 21, but the rest of their teammates had lackluster efforts—especially Rasheed Wallace… Wallace scored just four points on 2-of-12 shooting and had three turnovers in what might’ve been his last game as a Piston and could’ve been Flip Saunders’ last as Detroit’s coach. President of basketball operations Joe Dumars will likely make some sort of moves on the bench, the court or both.

Ticker reports: The Celtics, who avoided a third straight Game Seven this postseason, outscored the Pistons 29-13 in the final period to secure the victory. Boston used a powerful 23-6 run to seal the win… After Jason Maxiell gave Detroit a 74-72 edge with a fadeaway jumper, Pierce sliced through the lane and completed a three-point play to give the Celtics the lead for good with 5:25 remaining… Billups scored 29 points for Detroit, which lost in the Eastern Conference finals for the third straight season. The defeat already has raised questions about the job security of coach Flip Saunders.

InsideHoops.com Stat Notes: The Celtics shot 44.4%, the Pistons 42.0%. Both teams were awful from three-point range. The Celtics hit 20-of-27 free throws, the Pistons 17-of-21. Rebounding was close. The Pistons had 19 assists, the Celtics just 14.

For the Celtics, Pierce (8-of-12, 10-of-13 free throws) had 27 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Ray Allen (6-of-12, 3-of-8 threes) was alive with 17 points and 6 rebounds. Kevin Garnett (just 7-of-16 with a mere 4 free throw attempts) had 16 points and just 6 rebounds with 4 assists. Kendrick Perkins had 7 points and 7 rebounds. Rajon Rondo needed 13 shots for his 11 points and 4 rebounds. James Posey had 4 rebounds and two steals.

For the Pistons, Billups (9-of-20) had 29 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Richard Hamilton (9-of-14) had 21 points and 2 blocks. But then, a severe dropoff: Tayshaun Prince (3-of-10) had 10 points and 4 rebounds. Jason Maxiell (3-of-4) had 7 with 2 steals off the bench. Antonio McDyess (2-of-3) had just 6 points and 6 rebounds. Rasheed Wallace (awful 2-of-12) had 4 points and 10 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey (just 1-of-4) scored 4.

Hawks coaches still in limbo

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sekou Smith) reports: Hawks coach Mike Woodson didn’t realize he’d still be auditioning for his job at this late date. Yet nearly a month after the Hawks’ stunning playoff run ended in a Game 7 defeat in Boston, Woodson and his staff are still in limbo regarding their futures. Contracts expire June 30 and now a new general manager, Rick Sund, who was hired Wednesday to replace Billy Knight, has to evaluate the Hawks’ entire basketball operations staff before rendering decisions on who stays and who goes. Sund repeated Thursday the same thing he said a day earlier, that he’ll “spend the next week and half or so being a good listener and getting a lay of the land” before doing anything.

May 29: Lakers 100, Spurs 92

The AP reports: Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers dispatched the defending champions, and are headed to the NBA finals for the first time in four years. Bryant scored 17 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers rallied from an early 17-point deficit to beat the San Antonio Spurs 100-92 on Thursday night and win the Western Conference finals in five games… A 3-pointer by Luke Walton and baskets by Jordan Farmar and Bryant gave the Lakers a 74-68 lead with 8 1/2 minutes remaining, and they were on top the rest of the way. The Spurs led by as many as 10 points early in the third quarter, but the Lakers turned up their defensive intensity during a 19-8 run that gave them a 61-60 lead—their first since the opening minute. Bryant scored nine points during the spurt. Los Angeles led 64-63 entering the final period. The Spurs got 3-pointers from Finley, Ginobili and Barry during a 15-1 run that gave them a 33-16 lead early in the second quarter. The Lakers went nearly 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal until Farmar scored three straight baskets to trim San Antonio’s lead to 11.

InsideHoops.com Stat Notes: The Spurs shot 48.6%, the Lakers 44.7%, but the Lakers took 85 shots, the Spurs 74. The Spurs also nailed 7-of-15 three-pointers, the Lakers 8-of-21, which is still good. Both teams shot 18 free throws, but the Lakers hit a few more. The Lakers grabbed a few more rebounds, but the Spurs had 22 assists, the Lakers 16. Overall, the Lakers shit two more field goals, one more three-pointer, and three more free throws.

For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant (16-of-30) had 39 points, 2 steals, and not too much else. Lamar Odom (5-of-10) had 13 points, 8 rebounds and little else. Pau Gasol (just 5-of-15) had 12 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. Sasha Vujacoc scored 9 with 3 steals, and Vladimir Radmanovic and Jordan Farmar each scored 8.

For the Spurs, Tony Parker (11-of-22) scored 23 with 4 assists. Tim Duncan (just 7-of-19, just 5-of-10 free throws) had 19 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. Mike Finley (4-of-9) had 13 points and 4 rebounds. Brent Barry and Kurt Thomas both shot very well for 11 points each, and Thomas had 7 rebounds (but 3 turnovers). Manu Ginobili (just 3-of-9) had 9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and the same turnovers as assists. Bruce Bowen had 3 steals and little else, offensively at least, in almost 38 minutes.

NBA fines Rasheed Wallace

Rasheed Wallace of the Detroit Pistons has been fined  $25,000  for  his  use of profanity and criticism of the officiating following  last  night’s  game,  it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Wallace  made his comments to the media following the Pistons’ 106-102 loss to  the  Celtics  in  Game  5  of the 2008 NBA Eastern Conference Finals in Boston.

Doug Collins is Bulls coaching candidate

“I have spoken with Bulls management recently about their head coaching vacancy and will resume conversations after the conclusion of my work for TNT in the Western Conference Finals. There is no agreement in place.” Doug Collins

Here is Jim Paxson from the Bulls today: “I have been in contact with Doug Collins in regard to our head coaching position.  Contrary to some reports that are currently out there, we have not reached an agreement.  Right now, his commitment is covering the Western Conference Finals for TNT.  When that series concludes, we will continue our dialogue.  In the meantime, I will continue to talk to other candidates and review our options.” 

OJ Mayo misses flight to pre-draft camp

UPDATE: Mayo is here after all. A PR person had said he won’t be here due to a missed flight but he either did catch it or caught another and will do interviews as scheduled.

InsideHoops.com editor Jeff Lenchiner reports that O.J. Mayo missed his flight to Orlando today and will therefore not be around for media availability when eight other top players get interviewed this afternoon.

The league invited nine players expected to be probable lottery picks to a separate interview session. Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon are in that group.

Like other top players, Mayo was not expected to actually play in games.

Measurements, strength and skills testing is Friday. Mayo should make that.

May 28: Celtics 106, Pistons 102

The AP reports: Boston’s three All-Stars finally put it all together to move the Celtics one win away from the NBA finals for the first time since the original Big Three’s heyday. Ray Allen scored 29, hitting a long 2-pointer with a minute left after Detroit came within one point, then he and Kevin Garnett each made a pair of free throws down the stretch as the Celtics beat the Detroit Pistons 106-102 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night… Kendrick Perkins had career playoff highs with 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo added seven points, 13 assists, six rebounds and four steals for Boston. Paul Pierce scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half, when Perkins outrebounded the Pistons 13-11 by himself… Chauncey Billups scored 26 and Richard Hamilton had 25 points for Detroit, which has reached the conference finals six consecutive years but played for the championship just twice and won once in that span… Rasheed Wallace picked up a technical with 5:18 left in the game. It was his sixth of the postseason, and his next earns him a one-game suspension.

Ticker reports: Kevin Garnett poured in a game-high 33 points while Kendrick Perkins added 18 points and 16 rebounds as the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 106-102, to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series… Hamilton strained his right elbow with 8.2 seconds left but X-rays were negative… Afterward, the volatile Wallace tore into officials Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer. “All them (garbage) calls they had out there,” Wallace said. “Mike and Kenny, you saw that (garbage), a lot of them phantom calls, cats flapping and falling, they’re calling that (garbage). That (garbage) ain’t basketball, what they run out there. It’s all entertainment, all that (bleeping) entertainment.” … Detroit took command of the game early in the second, building an eight-point lead. But the Celtics went on a 16-4 run to end the first half, highlighted by Garnett’s desperation 3-point bank shot as the shot clock expired with 1:23 remaining before halftime.