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News » From an automatic to a shift

From an automatic to a shift

From an automatic to a shift
WALTHAM - After years as the conference's standard of excellence, the Detroit Pistons are in the unfamiliar position of being outside the East's elite, which consists of Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando.

But with a roster filled with All-Star-caliber players and more success than any other East team this decade, the Pistons still have the Celtics' respect.

Tonight at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the Celtics (38-9) will attempt to go 3-0 this season against Detroit (25-19).

"You definitely are going to have a lot of respect for the Pistons," Paul Pierce said yesterday. "They have All-Stars all across the board when they put a lineup out there. Even though they haven't been playing as consistent as [in the past], you still got to look at them as a threat because on any given night when you have guys like Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Allen Iverson, they can be hell."

Said Ray Allen, "Detroit, we've always had tough battles against them. They get up playing against us. We're going to have a battle."

The 2004 NBA champions have been to six straight Eastern Conference finals and sent four players to the All-Star Game three years ago. Last season, Boston knocked them off, 4-2, in the conference finals.

With key players still on its roster, Detroit opened 4-0 under rookie coach Michael Curry. But on Nov. 3, the Pistons traded 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, forward Antonio McDyess (since returned), and center Cheikh Samb to Denver for Iverson. Since acquiring Iverson, the Pistons are 21-19 while using nine lineups. Detroit is tied with Miami for the fifth-best record in the East.

"They still have a lot of great players on their team and they've infused young talent into their club," Allen said. "They have the experience. It's important that we know that they know how to win games. It's going to be a four-quarter game."

Asked about the difference between the Pistons before and after the Billups trade, Pierce said, "You knew what you were going to get from the Pistons night in and night out [before]. They played together five, six, seven years. They were a well-oiled machine. They're not a team that beat themselves.

"Right now, with the transition they're going through with Allen Iverson trying to figure out everything, you never know what team is going to show up. You have to be ready for a great Pistons team."

The Celtics defeated the Pistons, 88-76, in Iverson's home debut Nov. 9 and 98-80 in Boston Nov. 20. Playoffs included, Boston has beaten the Pistons in eight of 11 games since the start of last season.

"This year, they beat us convincingly both times," Hamilton told the Detroit media. "It's two different situations, last year to this year. We have to get on the ball. In order for us to get where we want to get to, we have to go through them."

Said Curry, "Both games, we had really good first quarters. Second quarter, we really struggled and kind of lost our grasp of the game. Their second unit did a really good job on us and we struggled to score."

Hamilton's status will be a game-time decision after he aggravated his groin injury against Minnesota Wednesday. The former University of Connecticut star has been coming off the bench of late, behind Iverson and Rodney Stuckey.

"Mentally, I'm going in saying that I don't want to miss that game," said Hamilton. "It's tough. We did a lot of treatment today. Hopefully, it will feel better [tonight]."

The Pistons face a tough parlay, with the Celtics followed by Cleveland Sunday. They have plenty of time to get back in the mix, and this may be the opportunity to show it.

"We better [respect them]," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They're a terrific Basketball team. Their record is still pretty darn good."

Said Pierce, "We have to expect their best, especially with the way teams are coming at us all year long. We know they'll be up for us. They haven't been playing well and they can look at this game as `We beat the Celtics. Maybe we can turn this around."'

Marc J. Spears can be reached at

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: January 30, 2009


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