By Chris Sheridan
Next stop for 7-0 Pistons: Texas
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Freedom has made the Detroit Pistons somewhat frightening, and it was almost a scary sight to see just how good they were when they decided to flip the switch Tuesday night.
Playing with the newfound offensive liberation that has come with the coaching change from Larry Brown to Flip Saunders, the NBA's lone remaining undefeated team improved to 7-0 by defeating the Boston Celtics 115-100. Despite the wide margin of the final score, it was actually a very close game for more than three quarters.
Rasheed Wallace said the Pistons played the poorest first half he could remember since arriving in Detroit nearly two years ago. The Celtics led 58-48 at the break and were still up 81-77 entering the fourth quarter before the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions decided to get serious.
Affter that, it was Dee-troit basketball at its finest.
Detroit scored 38 points in the fourth quarter, getting 10 from Rasheed Wallace and nine from Richard Hamilton, and using a 33-11 run to turn it into a rout. Detroit was 13-for-20 from the field and 10-for-10 at the line while forcing five of Boston's 15 turnovers.
The sellout crowd at the Palace, in mid-June form, ate it up.
"I'll say it -- it's definitely a big change to have a chance to push the ball up and not just run sets," Ben Wallace said. "Everyone's getting opportunities, guys are getting a few layups, and guys are happier."
Hamilton and Chauncey Billups each scored 25, Billups getting 17 in the third quarter alone. Rasheed Wallace had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and the Pistons won handily despite allowing Boston to shoot 53 percent.
Playing at home for the only time in an 18-day span, the Pistons surpassed 100 points for the fifth time this season and finished with a point total (115) that they eclipsed only once last season.
"They never seem to be in a situation where as a coach you say, 'Boy, we just don't have it tonight,' " Saunders said. "Their mental approach of 'It's going to be OK,' that's probably the biggest thing, the poise they have."
Under Saunders, the Pistons are encouraged to run and shoot as much as the game will allow. Micromanagement is out, mixing things up is in, and -- as always -- the Pistons will turn up their intensity at both ends of the floor whenever they feel the time is right.
Detroit will attempt to match the best start in team history, 9-0, during a two-game road trip to Houston and Dallas over the weekend. They've still got a ways to go to match the best start in NBA history, 15-0 (by Washington in 1948 and Houston in 1993), but it's not out of the question. It'll take wins over the Rockets, Mavs, Nuggets, Wizards, Bucks, Nets, Knicks and Bulls.
With the way they turned their intensity up and turned the game into a blowout Tuesday night, especially after coming off a three-game Western road trip, it'll be tough to bet against them.
"With us, we didn't like the taste we had in our mouths all summer. No disrespect to San Antonio, but we knew we could have beat them in Game 7," Rasheed Wallace said.
AP Photo/ Paul Sancya
Pistons guard Richard Hamilton has his facemask pulled off by Celtics guard Dan Dickau, not in picture, as Ricky Davis, left, defends in the fourth quarter in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Jon (New York): Marc, if the Knicks win the Atlantic, I think you should agree to hold an all-Knicks chat. It should be stipulated that for the purposes of this chat, you must refer to Isiah as "Isiah Thomas, personnel genius, and Stephon Marbury will be simply be called, "the best pg in the NBA." Do we have an accord?
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Cavs guard Larry Hughes, left, gives a hug to former Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas, who later paid a visit to the well-appointed, and winning, Cleveland locker room.
Quote of the Night
-- Andrew Ayres
When the Knicks face the Lakers on Wednesday night, it will be the first time Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Knicks coach Larry Brown will have faced each other since Game 5 of the 2004 NBA Finals.
-- ESPN Research
The 76ers had a 39-20 lead over Toronto at the end of the first quarter, thanks to 14 points from Chris Webber and 13 by Allen Iverson. It's the first time this season that NBA teammates each reached the teens in scoring in the first quarter. It happened only one time last season (Chicago's Kirk Hinrich and Eddy Curry did it on Feb. 16, 2005) and only once in the season before that (Jamal Mashburn and Baron Davis for New Orleans on Feb. 23, 2004).
• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias
I love the move by Richard Jefferson yesterday, accepting blame for the Nets' sorry 3-4 start. Many players do this sort of thing to look good or because they're being politically correct, but Jefferson seemed to really mean it.
He went as far as to say that back when he was a younger player, his calling card had been defense, that's how he got on the floor. He implied that now that he's a borderline star, scoring big points and throwing down crowd-revving dunks, he's lost a little focus on that end -- how else to explain T-Mac going for 35 against Jefferson the night after Ron Artest put 30 on him?
Magic forward Dwight Howard scored 21 points and pulled down 20 rebounds in Tuesday's 85-77 win over the Bobcats, becoming the first player under the age of 20 to record 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game. A look at others who reached 20-20 at an early age.
-- ESPN Research