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Celtics–Pistons rivalry
Boston Celtics
Detroit pistons wordmark.gif
Detroit Pistons
First meeting October 23, 1957
Latest meeting February 23, 2018
(Little Caesars Arena)
Next meeting TBA
Meetings total 418 meetings
All-time series 262-156 (BOS)
Regular season series 238-135 (BOS)
Postseason results 24–21 (BOS)
Longest win streak
Current win streak W1 (DET)
Post-season history

The Celtics–Pistons rivalry was a National Basketball Association (NBA) rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. The two teams played each other in the NBA playoffs five times from 1985–1991, with Boston winning in 1985 and 1987, and Detroit winning en route to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 1988 and 1989, and 1991. The rivalry peaked in the late 1980s, featuring players such as Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Bill Laimbeer.

NBA Playoffs[edit]

1985 Eastern Conference Semifinals[edit]

  • Game 1: Celtics 133, Pistons 99
  • Game 2: Celtics 121, Pistons 114
  • Game 3: Pistons 125, Celtics 117
  • Game 4: Pistons 102, Celtics 99
  • Game 5: Celtics 130, Pistons 123
  • Game 6: Celtics 123, Pistons 113

Boston wins series 4–2.

1987 Eastern Conference Finals[edit]

The Celtics established themselves earlier in the decade, with 4 Eastern Conference titles from 1981–86. But the emergence of the younger Pistons was the first real threat to the Celtics' dynasty. The Bad Boys, as Detroit was known, used physical play to intimidate their way to victory. This roused the ire of Boston's players and fans, and the teams' mutual hatred of each other often led to on-court fighting. Detroit's biggest antagonists were Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn and Dennis Rodman. In Game 3, Bird and Laimbeer were ejected for fighting as the Pistons won 122–104.

The most famous moment of the rivalry occurred during Game 5. Leading 107-106 with 5 seconds left, and Detroit threatening to take a 3–2 series lead, Isiah Thomas had his inbounds pass stolen by Bird, who dished it off to Dennis Johnson for the winning layup. With Parish forced to sit out Game 6 due to a suspension for punching Laimbeer in the second quarter of Game 5 (the first for a playoff game in NBA history; he also re-sprained his right ankle late in Game 5), the Pistons won Game 6 113–105 to send it back to Boston for Game 7. The Celtics ended the bitter series with a 117–114 win in Boston Garden over Detroit.

  • Game 1: Celtics 104, Pistons 91
  • Game 2: Celtics 110, Pistons 101
  • Game 3: Pistons 122, Celtics 104
  • Game 4: Pistons 145, Celtics 119
  • Game 5: Celtics 108, Pistons 107
  • Game 6: Pistons 113, Celtics 105
  • Game 7: Celtics 117, Pistons 114

Boston wins series 4–3.

1988 Eastern Conference Finals[edit]

Thomas got his revenge in the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals. The Pistons finally unseated the Celtics, winning the series 4–2 and advancing to the NBA Finals to face the Lakers. What was notable was the fact that Detroit, who entered the series with 21 straight losses at the Boston Garden, beat Boston by winning 2 of 3 there (Games 1 and 5). In Game 5, the Celtics led by 16 before the Pistons rallied to win 102–96 in OT. In addition, their rough play and intense defense made Bird's scoring drop to just 10 points per game on 35.1% shooting, forcing Boston to rely on McHale.

  • Game 1: Pistons 104, Celtics 96
  • Game 2: Celtics 119, Pistons 115
  • Game 3: Pistons 98, Celtics 94
  • Game 4: Celtics 79, Pistons 78
  • Game 5: Pistons 102, Celtics 96 (OT)
  • Game 6: Pistons 95, Celtics 90

Detroit wins series 4–2.

1989 Eastern Conference First Round[edit]

In 1989, the teams met again, only this time the Pistons were the #1 seed, while the Bird-less Celtics were the #8 seed. As expected, the Pistons swept the Celtics.

  • Game 1: Pistons 101, Celtics 91
  • Game 2: Pistons 102, Celtics 95
  • Game 3: Pistons 100, Celtics 85

Detroit wins series 3–0.

1991 Eastern Conference Semifinals[edit]

The Celtics and Pistons met one last time in 1991. Similar to 1988, Boston had home-court advantage, but lost to Detroit in 6. By this time however, Bird's health deteriorated, Thomas was injured and both teams had a new set of players.

  • Game 1: Pistons 86, Celtics 75
  • Game 2: Celtics 109, Pistons 103
  • Game 3: Celtics 115, Pistons 83
  • Game 4: Pistons 104, Celtics 97
  • Game 5: Pistons 116, Celtics 111
  • Game 6: Pistons 117, Celtics 113

Detroit wins series 4–2.

2002 Eastern Conference Semifinals[edit]

In 2002, the Celtics and Pistons met again, now featuring new stars in Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker, Jerry Stackhouse and Ben Wallace, respectively. Though the Celtics won in 5, the Pistons made their presence felt and returned to title form. They won the NBA title in 2004.

  • Game 1: Pistons 94, Celtics 86
  • Game 2: Celtics 85, Pistons 77
  • Game 3: Celtics 66, Pistons 64
  • Game 4: Celtics 90, Pistons 79
  • Game 5: Celtics 90, Pistons 81

Boston wins series 4–1.

2008 Eastern Conference Finals[edit]

After acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics renewed the rivalry. Their first matchup took place December 19, which Detroit won 87–85 after Chauncey Billups hit 2 key free throws. However, Boston won the season series 2–1. They met in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1988. Boston played 7 games each round while Detroit played 6 in the first and 5 in the second. The Celtics won a hard fought series in 6. Boston went on to capture their 17th NBA title by defeating the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals.

  • Game 1: Celtics 88, Pistons 79
  • Game 2: Pistons 103, Celtics 97
  • Game 3: Celtics 94, Pistons 80
  • Game 4: Pistons 94, Celtics 75
  • Game 5: Celtics 106, Pistons 102
  • Game 6: Celtics 89, Pistons 81

Boston wins series 4–2.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


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