They are the big, bad Pistons. "Beasts of the East." Playoff mainstays with guys like Hamilton, Wallace and Billups.
We are the sleek, new Celtics. A collection of talent vying to return glory to the greatest franchise in NBA history… lead by guys like Garnett, Pierce and Allen.
And in the end, it's Rajon Rondo that will decide this game.
Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen are a wash… and McDyess and Perkins are essentially a wash too. Pierce is better than Tayshaun Prince, but Prince is a good enough defender to bring Paul back to earth a little. KG is better than Wallace, but Wallace is still very good… and he'll draw KG away from the hole and minimize his overall effect on the team defense.
That leaves Billups and Rondo as the matchup that will make a difference here. (more, and today's links, and call-in show details after the jump)
Billups is bigger and stronger, and the instinct here is to try to post Rondo up whenever he can. You stick Wallace on the opposite wing and you let McDyess make the entry pass to Billups. That pulls Perkins and KG out of the lane, and gives Billups options to pass if need be. The C's then have to make some choices about where the double team comes from.
Rondo is faster and a better passer… and the key to exploiting that is to get Rondo into the lane. Rondo can beat Billups off the dribble… and if he gets into the teeth of the defense, he can pick and choose where the ball is going… or he can lay it up. Of the 10 double-digit scoring games from Rondo, 9 have been double-digit Celtics win (the other was the Orlando loss). Rajon HAS to force the issue for the Celtics to win. It goes back to the point I made on Monday: Run to Win. Neutralize their big guns by getting them tired and getting easy baskets. If Billups can control a half court game, then we're looking at our first home loss.
Hey… we're doing a call-in show tonight… and you dirty Pistons fans are welcome to come take your medicine. Visit our show page to listen starting at 9:30. Or just call (718) 508-9841 to join us.
Herald: C's tackle Beasts of the East | Rivers runs through it | Allen back in the mix | Globe: Allen ready to return | Pistons thumbnails | Survey gallery: tough stretch for C's | Post-game party | Chicago Tribune: Dominance on display | MLive.com: Pistons looking for mismatches | Detroit Free Press: Playoff preview? | Saunders predicted KG's success | Hartford Courant: Green Party | Daily Dime: C's face early exam | DetNews.com: Saunders happy for Garnett | Pistons relish big test | BostonSportz: Celtics as office cast members | Celtics ticket giveaway | CelticsBlog: KG's quote of the year | Artest to Knicks?