March 9, 2002
"What the hell were you doing picking that guy up?" asked Auerbach, referring to a play midway through the fourth quarter when Delk helped Detroit's Jon Barry to his feet. "You don't ever do that. I couldn't believe it when I saw it."
Slightly chagrined, but clearly enjoying the moment, Delk agreed and promised it wouldn't happen again. Auerbach went back to joking around with Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce. After all, there wasn't much more he could criticize about the Celtics' play. Boston's 117-92 dismissal of Detroit left the coaching legend with precious little material.
For the record, Delk's indiscretion occurred when the game was well in hand. The Celtics (34-27) were extending their lead to a game-high 30 points. It was just another night at the FleetCenter. Another Eastern Conference opponent jockeying for playoff position. Another big game. Another display of intelligent ball movement with an array of shooters spreading the court. Another blowout that extended the Celtics' winning streak to three games.
"I think everything's starting to come together," said Pierce (31 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks). "Guys are starting to feel comfortable with each other. The new guys are finally understanding their roles on this team. This is what we envisioned after the trade, a team that can go out there and put a lot of points on the board. Coach [Jim O'Brien] is always stressing [ball movement] and we just weren't getting it. But after watching the film every day, we started to realize what we have to do. When we run the ball, when we pass it and look for each other, it just opens up a whole lot of things for us and we can run up the score."
Prior to tip-off, the Celtics reviewed tape from their last loss to the Pistons, when they squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead. When the Celtics entered halftime last night ahead, 53-48, that provided them with second-half motivation. They were determined to build a sizable advantage and not surrender it. With a little poking and prodding from the Celtics' defense, the Pistons seemed willing to cooperate in the third quarter since they were not only fighting the Celtics, but also the fatigue of playing the second of back-to-back games.
After the Pistons briefly took the lead early in the quarter on a pair of 3-pointers by Chucky Atkins (team-high 17 points), the Celtics reeled off a 25-6 run that put them ahead for good. Rodney Rogers (14 points) hit a 3-pointer to cap the run and push Boston ahead, 78-60. Seven of the Celtics' 26 assists came during the spurt that lasted a little more than eight minutes. In the same span, the Pistons managed only two field goals and committed four turnovers. They scored only 15 points (4 for 14) in the third.
"They kicked our [expletive]," said Jerry Stackhouse (12 points). "Every situation was no fun."
If Stackhouse's comments didn't paint a clear picture of how easily (and unexpectedly) the Celtics cruised to victory over the Central Division leaders, who entered the contest with a .500 road record, having won eight of their last 10 games, there were other signs. It was clear the Celtics held a more than comfortable lead when Walker missed an ill-advised 3-point attempt and 17,405 fans got a good laugh.
For that matter, even Walker was smiling about the errant shot, knowing he got a little too caught up in the high-scoring fun as he tried to replicate the feats of Rogers and Walter McCarty from the arc. McCarty (season-high 15 points) was a perfect 6 for 6 from the floor, including 3 for 3 from 3-point range. Anderson also had 15 points and six assists. Shooting 54.2 percent, the Celtics placed five players in double figures.
Kedrick Brown put an exclamation point on the win when he took off from a few feet inside the foul line and dunked with 59 seconds to play. The slam brought the starters, who were sitting on the bench, to their feet. They oohed and aahed at the replays, happy to celebrate.
"We came in with the mind-set to win this game," said Walker (24 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds). "We came in very intense. We understood the significance of this week [with games against Philadelphia, Orlando, and Detroit]. We had an opportunity to help ourselves and we took advantage of it."