(AFP) – May 24, 2008
DETROIT, Michigan (AFP) — The Boston Celtics finally found a way to win on the road in the National Basketball Association playoffs Saturday, posting an emphatic 94-80 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The Celtics responded convincingly to their first home defeat of this postseason to take a 2-1 lead over the Pistons in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series, from which the winner advances to the NBA Finals.
Kevin Garnett scored 22 points with 13 rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, who withstood a fourth-quarter rally by Detroit to capture the victory.
The Pistons will host game four on Monday.
The Celtics had lost all six of their road games in the first two rounds of the playoffs as they took seven games to beat both the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
It was a stat that Boston's Paul Pierce said was less a monkey on their backs but "more like a gorilla".
"Before the game, I told the guys, 'Hey, during the regular season we were the best team on the road, so we want to go out here and try to show them,'" Pierce said. "That's the way we came out."
They had won all of their home games, until dropping game two of this series on Thursday.
"They have home court back," said Pistons coach Flip Saunders. "The game we play on Monday is crucial for us.
"We've got to come out and be aggressive in everything we do.
"This was the first time they were in a situation where they had to win to win to keep a hold of the series, and they did it.
"I think both teams know right now they can win on the other team's floor. You've got to be on the top of your game."
After dominating the first half, the Celtics saw their lead cut to nine points on Tayshaun Prince's basket with 3:08 to play.
The Pistons, however, could get no closer.
Richard Hamilton scored 25 points but Chauncey Billups chipped in just six for the Pistons, who shot 39 percent from the field and were outrebounded, 44-28 as Boston wrested back their home court advantage.
The Celtics came out strong, scoring the game's first 11 points as they took a 50-32 halftime lead. It was Detroit's lowest first-half points total all season.
An aggressive Garnett led the charge and finished the night shooting 7-of-16 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line.
"We came out aggressive early, we took shots when we had them," Garnett said. "Defensively we connected and we were aggressive on both ends, and that's how you've got to play this team."
Boston also took advantage of Detroit's defensive strategy of focusing on Boston's "Big Three" of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and allowed Perkins and point guard Rajon Rondo to roam free.
Perkins made the Pistons pay as he shot 6-of-7 from the field. Rondo scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
"Game number two, we choked off their role players, and tonight their role players really hurt us," Saunders said. "Look at what Perkins did, look at the guys off the bench."
The Celtics looked less assured after halftime, and the Pistons managed to stay close enough to launch a run.
Richard Hamilton's jumper with 4:25 left cut the Pistons' deficit to 84-73 - the closest they had been in the second half up to that point.
But on the ensuing possession, Pierce corralled offensive rebound, allowing the offense to reset, leading to Allen's pass to James Posey for a dunk.
After a loose-ball foul on the Pistons, Pierce hit 1-of-2 from the line to make it 87-73.
The Pistons had one more surge, scoring five quick points on a 3-pointer from Billups and Prince's dunk.
Garnett said the Celtics were prepared for a Pistons run.
"The upped the pressure in the third and fourth quarter," he said. "It's their reputation to put pressure on you.
"We had some turnovers there in the fourth quarter, but for the most part we were still aggressive and we were able to pull the win out."
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