for this game

Celtics seek ninth straight home win in opener vs. Pistons

May 20, 2008 - 1:40 PM Detroit at Boston 8:30 pm EDT Eastern Conference finals Game One

BOSTON (Ticker) - The Boston Celtics are hoping that home-court advantage continues to provide the difference in the postseason.

The top-seeded Celtics aim to remain undefeated at TD Bank North Garden with the host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Behind 41 points from All-Star Paul Pierce, the Celtics survived their second consecutive best-of-seven series with Sunday's 97-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the decisive Game Seven.

"It is a great feeling," said Pierce, who has scored at least 20 points just four times in the postseason. "We knew this was going to be a tough, tough series."

With the win, Boston improved to 8-0 at home in the playoffs.

"Before the year our goal was to be there in Game One at home (in the conference finals) and that's where we are," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "So we're exactly where we should be."

While Boston battled through another tough seven-game series, Detroit has been getting some rest over the past week after sending the Orlando Magic packing with its 91-86 victory in Game Five.

The most important thing for Pistons coach Flip Saunders is the health of All-Star guard Chauncey Billups, who strained his right hamstring in Game Three against the Magic

If Billups remains slowed by the injury, don't be surprised if Saunders calls on rookie Rodney Stuckey again for major minutes. The 6-5 Stuckey was solid in place of Billups against Orlando.

Despite posting the best record in the league during the regular season at 66-16, the Celtics have looked somewhat beatable at times in the first two rounds.

"We've learned a lot about each other," Boston guard Ray Allen said. "It's good for us because as a team this is our first time together. All that stuff that people say is a reason why we won't win, it's a reason why we will win."

Boston's "Big Three" of Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett has failed to live up to the hype in the playoffs with their inconsistent play and inability to close out games.

Allen has been the biggest disappointment of the entire group, reaching the 20-point plateau just twice through 14 games in the postseason.

Huge defensive efforts will be needed from Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace if the Pistons are hope to earn their third trip to the NBA Finals since 2004.

"We've got to go in and play this team like they swept everybody," Pistons guard Lindsey Hunter said. "They were the best team in the NBA. They didn't accomplish that by chance. We'll come in as though they're fresh as we are."