Watching the Celts beat the Pistons last night, I was surprised to see Billups not play like Billups. Now, I know he just came off of that bad injury, but in an interview with the crew at TNT, he said he was 100%. I know it's now good to rush an injury, but he wasn't 100%. Going into this series, I thought the Pistons could win. Now, I can't be so sure. Here my ruling: if Mr. Big Shot is not playing like he did in the second round, the Pistons have no chance of winning.
Let's look at the stats from the first game in Boston. Nine points and two steals (he also missed two free throws!), that doesn't sound like the Billups from the first two games against Orlando. In that series he averaged 23.5 points, shot 18-19 from the line and dished out 5.5 assists per game. I don't want to harp on the free throws, but he has to be effective in every element of his game. I think Rodney Stuckey could start and produce number close (if not better) to those.
Billups may not be 100%, but the Pistons have to find a way to look beyond that. I would like to see even more of Hunter and maybe Flip shouldn't be scared away by the other young guards sitting on his bench. Saunders (Pistons head coach, if you didn't know) has to send a message to Billups that if you're not ready to play like you did in the last games you played in Detroit, you might as well not play at all. What the Pistons lose is some experience, but I think the level of play from the guys that are on the bench should make up for what they would lose.
Boston needs to find more ways to work Billups on defense. Rip Hamilton-esque screens would test him each game, giving the Celtics coaching staff a good basis to work on.
I like Boston to take game two, but then we will see a different Pistons team once they head back to the Palace. Billups doesn't have to be 100% at home, but if Pistons fans don't want to see a sad look on Joe Dumars' face, he better be.