for this game

Pistons steal road game against Celtics

May 23, 2008 - 5:22 AM By Tony Lee PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- While Chauncey Billups regained his form, the Boston Celtics lost theirs at home in Game Two of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday night.

Billups shook off any lingering effects of a hamstring injury to collect 19 points and seven assists in 32 minutes of turnover-free basketball as the Detroit Pistons handed the Celtics their first loss this postseason at TD Banknorth Garden with a 103-97 victory.

Richard Hamilton scored 25 points - including two on a runner in the final minute that helped seal it - for the Pistons, who knotted the best-of-seven matchup at 1-1.

"It was a big win, a huge win," said Billups, who told reporters he felt completely fine after the game. "They're a great home team. We wanted to win Game One but, when we didn't we said, 'Let's try to get one, let's try to steal home court advantage from this team.'"

Boston, which is 0-6 on the road this postseason, now is 9-1 at home in the playoffs and will head to Detroit for Game Three on Saturday. The Celtics now have to win a road game to advance, a task that proved impossible in the first two rounds.

"Disappointing loss," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Now, we have to go out on the road and win a game, so that's what we'll do."

"Well, this is a test for us," Celtics All-Star guard Ray Allen said. "We talked about all the things that happened in the first two rounds and now we're in a situation where we can't move on without winning on the road."

Billups had just nine points and two assists in 31 minutes in Game One, showing some sluggishness in his return from a two-game layoff to rest the hamstring.

But he was in charge throughout Thursday, helping the Pistons take control in the second quarter and provide a quick answer to a third-quarter charge by the hosts.

The All-Star scored 11 points at halftime as Detroit took a 50-43 advantage into the locker room. While he was not penetrating as much as usual, Billups' easy approach set the tone.

His backcourt mate may have offered up the right advice.

"One thing I told Chauncey, you ain't got to be over-aggressive out there," Hamilton said. "You can take your time and be the captain of our ship. ... I thought tonight he just stayed poised, stayed poised, directed us, put guys in positions to succeed."

Struggling on the other end was Celtics' sharpshooter Allen, who had averaged just 9.0 points in his last nine playoff games dating to the first round.

But Allen finally found his stroke early in the third, spearheading the Celtics' 15-4 burst to start the period. His tough fadeaway on the baseline gave Boston a 58-54 advantage.

The lead, and the momentum seized in front of a suddenly-raucous Garden, was short-lived, courtesy again of Billups, who was everywhere during the game's critical stretch.

The All-Star floor general first found Hamilton for a 3-pointer, then fed Rasheed Wallace for another. After Paul Pierce forged the final tie of the night with a layup, Billups buried a three of his own and then made three straight free throws to put the Pistons ahead, 66-60.

"We knew that they were at home and they were gonna make a run," Billups said of the see-saw third. "We knew that was going to happen, and they did just that. They got Ray going and other guys started hitting some shots. We just take the blows, take the blows, withstand it, and come back with our own."

Boston's deficit grew to nine at the end of three, and it fell behind by as many as 11 early in the fourth. Much of that came with Billups watching as rookie Rodney Stuckey emerged.

Stuckey scored 10 of his 13 points in a span of four-plus minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters. His long jumper with 8:31 remaining in the game made it 86-75, which matched Detroit's largest lead.

Allen scored 12 in the fourth and hit his first 3-pointer since Game Five of the Eastern Conference semifinals to pull the Celtics within 88-86 with 5:09 left. He hit another in the final minute to cut the deficit to 100-97, but Wallace hit a free throw and Tayshaun Prince made two in the closing seconds to seal it.

After Boston's surge to start the second half, Detroit had all the answers.

"These guys, we've been through a lot," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "Our players, they've been (to the Eastern Conference finals) six times, and what we did is we kept our composure."

Antonio McDyess chipped in 15 points and Prince added 14 for Detroit, which shot 28-of-32 from the free-throw line.

Pierce led all scorers with 26 points but netted just four in the fourth and Kevin Garnett chipped in with 24 and 13 rebounds for the Celtics.