Originally created 05/05/02

Traditional rivals Pistons, Celtics matched up in second round



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Fans in Detroit and Boston remember the images well.

There was Isiah Thomas' pass stolen by Larry Bird in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, and Bird passing to Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup.

There was Vinnie Johnson and Adrian Dantley bumping heads and sitting out the rest of Game 7 of the same series - a Celtics win.

The Pistons and the Celtics resume their playoff rivalry on Sunday at the Palace of Auburn Hills for Game 1 of the second round.

Pistons coach Rick Carlisle remembers the Detroit-Boston rivalry of the 1980s, having played with the Celtics from 1984-1987.

"Those were great matchups," Carlisle said after the Pistons practiced Saturday. "They were furious. They were fun. That's what playoff basketball is all about. I think it's great that a Boston-Detroit series is back."

The franchises haven't known much postseason success since those games.

Boston, which advanced past the Philadelphia 76ers with a 120-87 win in Game 5 on Friday night, won a playoff series for the first time since 1992, Bird's final season.

Detroit, which advanced with its own Game 5 win - over Toronto on Thursday night - won its first playoff series since 1991.

Boston relied on a strong perimeter game and a pair of stars - Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker - to oust the 76ers. Pierce scored 46 points Friday night - the fifth-best performance in Boston playoff history - and the Celtics went 9-of-10 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and 19-for-29 for the game. Walker had 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

"I think we're meeting the only team in the Eastern Conference that can go deep with us," Walker said.

Detroit players concede that the Celtics present a different challenge from the Raptors, whose balanced offense and bruising defense mirrored the Pistons.

"By watching yesterday, you'd think you just have to take away the 3-pointer, but they are able to adjust to how teams are playing them," said Jerry Stackhouse, who averaged 16.4 points against Toronto.

Boston's two playoff scoring leaders, Pierce and Walker, averaged 30.2 and 24.4 points.

"Pierce is a monster at creating ways to score," Carlisle said. "What they have is a lot of highly skilled players."

Carlisle said Stackhouse, Michael Curry and Jon Barry will be asked to guard Pierce.

Boston attempted (125) and made (58) more 3-pointers than any of the other 15 playoff teams in the first round. The Pistons were second, having made 35 of 94.

"We have to try and take away the 3-point shot," Corliss Williamson said. "They live and die by the 3-point shot."

Each team made an improbable turnaround from disappointing 2000-01 seasons.

For Detroit, the vast improvement hasn't gone unnoticed.

The Pistons boast Williamson, the Sixth Man award winner; Ben Wallace, the NBA Defensive Player; Cliff Robinson, who was named second-team All Defense; and Zeljko Rebraca, who garnered second-team All-Rookie honors.

And Carlisle is a Coach of the Year candidate.

"It's going to be a tough series. ... They've got All-Stars. They've got a Defensive Player of the Year," Boston's Eric Williams said. "We've got guys who can play defense, too, and we've got guys who can score, too. So it's going to be a great series."

Neither team won a road game in the first round, and they split the season series 2-2, with each team winning on its home court.