The Pistons and Celtics squared off for an afternoon matinee on Monday, and for a while in the first half it looked like Boston might escape with the upset. But the Pistons erased a 14-point deficit with a 19-4 run in the second quarter. Who was most responsible for the turnaround?
You might be surprised.
No, I'm serious. Delfino scored eight of his 11 points in that quarter, playing some tough defense against Paul Pierce. Granted, he picked up three fouls in just 15 minutes for the game, but at least a couple of those could have gone either way, and he did a very solid job frustrating one of the game's elite players. Plus, he showed some nice long range work with a couple of three pointers in the quarter before finishing 3-4 from beyond the arc for the day.
Regular readers know that we've talked up Delfino before, but I want to reiterate something: this guy can flat-out play. He has nice range and great leaping ability, and since he's getting into games earlier lately, he's really proving himself now that he's playing with some of the starters. Chauncey Billups looked for Delfino as the first option at least a couple of times coming down the court, and it paid off. Flip Saunders acknowledged Delfino's effect on the game in his post-game comments:
"We came out kind of flat," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "We brought in Carlos, and he got us back in the game, took over the game, and everybody else finished."
I've gotten in the habit of thinking of Delfino and Maurice Evans as an either/or proposition, but the Pistons made their move in the second quarter Monday with both of those two guys in the game and Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton on the bench. Considering Tay and Rip lead the Pistons in minutes, it would certainly help the Pistons if Delfino and Evans continue to complement each other. In my opinion, this is definitely one of the more interesting storylines for Pistons fans to follow right now.
As for the rest of the game, Chauncey Billups tallied 13 points and 16 assists, Ben Wallace had nine points and 14 boards and Rasheed Wallace led all scorers with 23 points and nine boards. While Delfino sparked the team to make their comeback, Rasheed helped the team pull away with 18 points in the third quarter alone.
''We play them pretty tough, and they're the best team in the league right now," said Pierce. ''I don't know if it's because they don't get up for us or because we match up well. You've got me and Tayshaun [Prince], and Ricky [Davis] and Richard Hamilton. [Kendrick Perkins] is like a young Ben Wallace to me. We don't know if he'll be a great offensive player, but he's taken his strengths and worked to make the most of them. He has long arms. He knows his role getting rebounds. Delonte [West] reminds me of Chauncey [Billups]."
Davis as Rip? I can't imagine Rip ever getting completely shut out like Davis was -- in 45 minutes! -- on Monday. If you really want to compare this Celtics team to a young Pistons team, you kind of have to consider Pierce for the role of Jerry Stackhouse, the veteran leader who just can't get the team over the hump himself and isn't still around when the pieces do finally come together. Just my two cents.