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Everybody raise your hand if you are surprised Detroit and Boston are in the Eastern Conference Finals.



2008-05-20

Everybody raise your hand if you are surprised Detroit and Boston are in the Eastern Conference Finals. This was about as likely as the CSI crime team solving the murder before the top of the hour. Now the hard part however. Is Boston worth a shot as a -155 favorite, or is the value with the underdog Pistons?

Of course, that is not to say how each team got to this point didn't have a few twists and turns, just like the CBS hit series. The Pistons lost first game of the entire playoffs at home to Philadelphia and actually had to win a game four on the road to square up series with the Sixers. Boston is chasing history, trying to become the first team ever to win only home games and no road games on the way to title, solidifying the argument for having the best record in the league.
Fans of up and down, high-flying basketball, might want to mix in a WNBA game during the East Finals, because the last thing that will happen is a high scoring confrontation when these two get together. These teams have played three games this season, with Boston winning two and the losing team never made it 86 points and these were regular season games. Both teams prefer knock-'em-down, drag-'em-out battles, which is what we will see. Oddsmakers like those at Sportsbook.com are aware these two have played UNDER ten of last 12 encounters.

Boston is 43-6 and 30-18-1 ATS at TD Banknorth Garden, with eight postseason wins and five covers, though none in the last three victories. Taking away the opening two blowouts against Atlanta and the Celtics are unsavory 3-9 ATS in last dozen. Boston could have used the rest Detroit had in polishing off Orlando much sooner. You can't help but wonder where the scoring is going to come from for Boston. Ray Allen looks all used up. No legs for jump shots, confidence missing in his eyes and facing another defensive-minded club. Rajon Rondo needs to be a great defensive player along with a scoring threat every game, in some manner. Yes, he has limited skill as a jump shooter, but he has to be disruptor, making steals, getting transition baskets for easy points. Two factors are imperative for Celtics to win series. Boston is 23-8 ATS in games where they attempt 77 to 83 shots this season, meaning they must play to their tempo. Secondly, they have to continue to rule at home and be aggressive. They are 12-3 ATS in home games when they attempt 23 to 28 free throws in a game this season.

Detroit will have healthy Chauncey Billups, which creates greater offensive efficiency. The Pistons, being in sixth consecutive Conference Final, must win the matchups. Billups must govern Rondo, meaning playing time for Sam Cassell, who looks ready to retire playing at this intensity level. Rip Hamilton has been a pleasure to watch with Billups out and should drive Allen crazy on both ends the floor, having him expend a great deal of energy. If the Pistons can rule the backcourt, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince just have to play Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce even. Pierce will be stoked with confidence after performance he gave in Cavs finale. Prince's long arms and often suffocating defense will have to affect Pierce. Otherwise, Pierce will have the chance to get Prince in foul trouble gaining a significant edge.

The other element in the series will be bench play. Doc Rivers has often looked down the bench in the playoffs, yearning for somebody, anybody to help, especially on the postseason road. Boston will need the unlikely scorer off the bench in at least two different games to win, just like P.J. Brown in game seven against Cleveland. The same goes for the Pistons, whether it is Jason Maxiell in the paint or Jarvis Hayes or Rodney Stuckey dropping jump shots, someone will have to come thru.

Detroit has enjoyed great success against teams who attempt 18 or more three point shots a game like the Celtics with 30-12 ATS record. For the Pistons, it becomes overcoming the stigma of not covering 11 of last 12 Conference Finals games and making the NBA Finals twice in five tries.

Both times Detroit won the Conference Finals; they did so without the home court advantage (2004 and 2005). Overall, the Pistons have looked like the better team and with 28 road wins in 46 games, are capable of knocking off Boston on the road.

StatFox Take Detroit +125 in six


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