for this game

Garnett shines as Celtics stay perfect at home in playoffs

May 21, 2008 - 4:53 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics showed no ill effects from playing their 10th playoff game in 20 days.

Kevin Garnett collected 26 points and nine rebounds and Paul Pierce scored 22 as the Celtics turned back the well-rested Detroit Pistons, 88-79, in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday.

It was the ninth straight postseason win at TD Banknorth Garden for Boston, which hosts Game Two on Thursday night.

The Celtics won despite having just one day to prepare.

"I didn't really think of it that way," Pierce said. "I just look at it as 0-0, brand-new series. You've got Detroit coming in well-rested. This was a perfect game for them to come in and try to steal one, and we were aware of that. They probably figured we were tired from the last series."

Tayshaun Prince scored 16 points and Richard Hamilton added 15 for Detroit, which is playing in the conference finals for the sixth consecutive year.

"They got off to a good start and we started sluggish, and they pretty much kept the pace throughout," Prince said. "As far as that long layoff, you never know what's best. You can't blame that."

Pistons guard Chauncey Billups finished with just nine points on 3-of-6 shooting in his first game since injuring his right hamstring in Game Three in the semifinals against Orlando on May 7.

"It started to loosen up for me a little in that fourth quarter," Billups said. "It took a little while. Like I told the guys, we can't overreact to this game. We haven't played in a week and I haven't played in two weeks. I saw a couple of gaps that I will take advantage."

The Celtics were playing just two days after winning their second straight best-of-seven series, while the Pistons hadn't been on the court since dispatching the Magic on May 13.

Top-seeded Boston came out and appeared in better rhythm early, racing out to an 8-0 lead as Garnett sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy by scoring the first four points on back-to-back jumpers.

"I thought our energy was pretty good," Garnett said. "We were really focused at shootaround and went through our practices like we usually do. This is a team that's not only going to(require) first efforts but second and third efforts and it's going to take that type of energy for 48 minutes to beat this team."

The Celtics closed with a 10-4 spurt to carry a 22-17 at the end of the first.

"Obviously, coming off an emotional Game Seven, and coming in here with the energy we came in with was fantastic," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Offensively, I just thought we made nice passes all night."

The Pistons began to assert control in the second quarter, holding the Celtics to just 14 points over the first 11 minutes of the period to take a 39-35 advantage.

"I feel good. I didn't want to come out throw the rhythm of the team off too bad, come out too aggressive when I hadn't played in a while," Billups said. "And we were out of our rhythm anyway."

Boston rallied with the next six points and eventually took a 41-40 halftime lead.

The Celtics put the defensive clamps on the Pistons in the third, limiting them to 17 points, and forged a 69-57 advantage when Eddie House drilled a 3-pointer just prior to the third-quarter buzzer.

"We just didn't seem to be in a good flow," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "They may have had something to do with that. Just couldn't get up over the hump. We didn't get into our offense quick enough. Defensively, we were a step slow on rotations."

The second-seeded Pistons cut deficit to 79-73 in the fourth, but they couldn't get any closer.

"They shot the ball well," Saunders said. "I told our guys as bad as we played, we had opportunities. In the third quarter I think we had six or seven turnovers, which basically blew the game open, and we had trouble recovering from that."