Game 1 didn't go off as well as I'd hoped ... but it did play out just as I expected.
As far as I'm concerned, the first game was always about regaining rhythm, not taking control of the series. Boston was flying high off an emotional win, and in front of a frenzied crowd, expecting them to open the game at anything less than full throttle would have been foolish.
The Pistons, meanwhile, hadn't played in a week, and they hadn't played with their floor general in nearly two. That the Pistons opened the game allowing the Celtics to jump out to an 8-0 lead neither surprised nor greatly worried me, especially considering the tide soon turned and the game remained competitive for most of the remaining three and a half quarters.
Chauncey Billups played like a guy who missed a couple of weeks ... but still, he played. Now that the rust is off and he's tested the hammy in game situations and finally knows for sure that his leg will not in fact explode every time he makes a move, he can finally get back to being his regular self in Game 2, hand out more than two assists, attempt more than six shots and crack double-digits in scoring. From the Detroit News:
"It was good to be out there," Billups said. "My explosiveness, obviously, wasn't there. But I know I'll get better as I go along."
Rasheed Wallace was lost for much of the game. The Pistons eventually force-fed him the ball on the block for several possessions late in the game, and while it paid off with a couple of jumpers, it also resulted in a couple of forced shots and a swipe by Rajon Rondo, who picked up on Detroit's extremely transparent strategy.
It was too little, too late and too forced. I don't mean to single Rasheed out here -- Rip Hamilton had a couple of uncharacteristic drives with mixed results, as well. I'm just saying that the Pistons are at their best when their offense flows and they're feeding the hot hand, not when they're desperate and trying to heat a cold hand.
As disappointing as the final score may be, there were plenty of positives, as well. How can you not be happy with Rodney Stuckey right now? He played like a guy who's learned something each and every time he's taken the court. He's aggressive on his drives, and he's getting calls he didn't get earlier in the year. In the past, the Pistons have lacked a guy who could get into the paint, draw contact and convert, but he's become that guy.
So, please, don't overreact. No one, absolutely no one, was predicting a sweep. The chic pick both in the comments of this site and elsewhere on the internet was Pistons in six, which means there were always supposed to be a couple of losses. It was a disappointing game, but there was no giving up, there was no sleepwalking, and there was certainly no complacency.
Instead, there were stretches of sloppy play on both sides of the ball, some unexpected missed free throws late and not enough rhythm throughout. And yet, if you take away one disastrous third quarter, the Pistons would have won this game 62-60. All things considered, I'll take that. As Rasheed said after the game:
"We'll be right," Rasheed Wallace assured afterward. "It's just one game. They got it. Good for them. But there's a Game 2 Thursday."