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The Key is D

Last night in Game 2,  both Boston and Detroit played good to great offense. Clutch shots were hit, the ball moved pretty well, and there was a ton of athleticism on display. The bottom line was defense, and Detroit's was better, especially in the second half.  For a Flip Saunders team, that's hard to imagine, but this Detroit defense was born out of Larry Brown's tenure with the club. Flip has tinkered with the defensive strategies, inserting his vaunted zone into the mix, but has been smart enough to let well enough alone. The Pistons veterans know how to seriously defend when they want to.

Boston's defense, on the other hand, has dropped off some since the regular season ended. Late in the third quarter, they got caught up in double teams, which resulted in Detroit ball movement and open looks for guys like Rodney Stuckey, who had 13 points last night. Stuckey--picked 15th in last year's draft--once again proves that if you have a competent GM/VP at the helm, player draft successes will exceed failures (see Milicic, Darko). Stuckey outscored the entire Boston bench, who could only provide 8 points of support last night.

Now we get down to whether Boston can win a game on the road. Some folks think now that Boston actually needs to win a game, they will. That's wishful thinking. The greater reality is that in the first two series they squandered opportunities to demonstrate their dominance, and now against a veteran team with depth and talent, the time to excel is now. No excuses.

In Boston's favor, Ray Allen has stopped imitating Anthony Peeler and starting hitting shots. Unfortunately, the decision in Game 2 to keep him in after picking up his fourth foul, praised by both Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson during the ESPN broadcast, cost the C's. Allen's continued good play is important for Boston to have a chance, because only KG and Pierce have it going; Rondo has been spectacularly inconsistent.  The Tri-Core needs to be fully optimized, the bench will have to contribute more, and Rondo needs to smooth out his game for Boston to win this series.

However, if it does come down to defense, right now, the advantage is Detroit's.