They passed the test with flying colors. Celtics managed to outplay the Pistons in all phases of the game.
Here was my key to the Celtics victory. They were able to work the ball inside better than the Pistons as this link will attest to: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/shotchart?gameId=280305002 Notice how the Celtics had far more assists, FG, and a far higher FG% than the Pistons. The game was played at the Pistons tempo and the Celtics still won this handily.
Garnett scored 31 and punished his matchup (Rasheed Wallace or Antonio McDyess) regularly.
Perkins garnered 20 boards with many of them in contested and had 10 points from well executed pick and rolls plus inside passing. Perkins benefitted but also worked for inside position. Rondo won his matchup against Billups in a huge growth game. He also abused Hamilton by blowing by him and got the dunk and flagrant on Maxiel.
Detriot made two runs mostly with Rajon Rondo, Perk, and KG on the bench.
Speaking of benches - Baby came in with a nice outing of 7 points, 4 rebs, an assist and a steal. Boston's bench outscored the Pistons bench 15-5.
Billups was 14 of 15 from the FT line after 3 qtrs and got no FTA in the decisive 4th qtr. He threw down Rondo on an offensive possestion.
The crowd sounded really energetic tonight - something that I expect will grow as time wears on.
Celtics have a tougher remaining schedule due to their Texas road trip. Detriot has games against Cleveland which may be problematic.
Boston has clinched a playoff spot in the 1st week of March. I would venture to say that has not happened since the 1980's this early in the season. I think Boston's magic number to clinch the Atlantic is 8. I suspect this will happen on the Texas trip.
The Celtics are developing into one of the better defensive teams out there.