for this game

Garnett, Celtics grab first playoff road win

May 25, 2008 - 4:52 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics waited until their backs were against the wall to win on the road.

Kevin Garnett had 22 points and 13 rebounds as the Celtics picked up their first road win this postseason with a convincing 94-80 victory over the Detroit Pistons in Game Three of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night.

"It was more like a gorilla," Paul Pierce said of Boston's road woes before Saturday. "Before the game, I told the guys, 'Hey, during the regular season, we were the best team in the league on the road, so let's go out there and show them."

Kendrick Perkins collected 12 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup by withstanding a fourth-quarter rally by Detroit to secure the victory.

"We've talked a lot about both ends of the floor in the last 48 hours, and we took care of both of them, which was great," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "The defensive pressure was great all game, and the offensive ball movement was terrific all game. We play like that, we like our chances."

Still recovering from a right hamstring injury, Chauncey Billups scored just six points on 1-of-6 shooting for the Pistons, who shot 38 percent (28-of-73) from the field, including 1-of-13 on 3-pointers.

"It's very disappointing," Billups said. "We got off to a horrible start on both ends, and you can't do that against a team like that."

Game Four will be here on Monday.

"They have home court back," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "That makes Monday a crucial game for us - no ifs, ands or buts - that's our biggest game of the year."

The Celtics had their lead cut to nine on Tayshaun Prince's baseline jam with 3:08 left. But that was as close it would get for Detroit, which scored just two points the rest of the way.

"We knew they were going to make a run. That team isn't shaken by much," Rivers said. "We didn't close out the third quarter, so we gave them a little hope, but that was the only negative of the game."

It has been a strange postseason for Boston, which advanced to the conference finals after winning two seven-game series against the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Celtics won two Game Sevens at TD Banknorth Garden but looked like a completely different team on the road.

After a 103-97 loss to Detroit at home in Game Two on Thursday, Boston - despite not being in an elimination situation yet - knew it couldn't just rely on home dominance to advance to the NBA Finals.

"We took care of business," Garnett said. "It's always good to win on the road, but we know this is going to take more than one win."

Instead, it came out with energy from the start in this one by scoring the game's first 11 points en route to a 50-32 lead at halftime - the lowest first-half point total for Detroit all season.

"We didn't come out and play," Pistons rookie guard Rodney Stuckey said. "You can't let a team like that start with two dunks. We had a chance to take control of the series, and we didn't do nothing with it."

The charge was led by Garnett, who was surprisingly assertive all night, shooting 7-of-16 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line.

Boston also took advantage of Detroit's defensive philosophy, which shaded coverage to the "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, shooting 6-of-7 from the field, including an array of strong dunks and wide-open jumpers. Rondo scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

While the Celtics took control in the first half, they came out shaky after halftime, falling victim to the Pistons' half-court trap. The innovative defense allowed Detroit to stay close in the second half, setting up its inevitable 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 a crucial offense rebound, allowing the offense to reset, leading to Allen's nifty 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 and seemingly end Detroit's hope for a comeback.

But there would be one more spurt for the Pistons, who scored five quick points on Billups' 3-pointer with 3:29 left - his first field goal of the game and his team's lone shot from the arc - and Prince's dunk.

"We didn't have any effort in the first half and, when we came with some effort in the second half, it wasn't enough," Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace said. "I don't think Monday's a big deal - this is all about whoever gets to four."

Stuckey, Billups' rookie backup, was impressive with 17 points and Hamilton added 26 in a team-high 43 minutes for the Pistons, who were outrebounded, 44-28.

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