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Garnett, balanced Celtics stun Pistons for first playoff road win

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Boston Celtics insisted they weren't worried about winning a road game, knowing their time would come in the playoffs.

Perfect timing.

Kevin Garnett scored 22 points to lead Boston to a 94-80 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

"I think our guys just assumed we would eventually win on the road," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said simply.

The NBA's top-seeded team had lost its first six road games -- tying a league record -- and was 9-0 at home until losing to Detroit in the previous game.

"I think the loss rejuvenated us," Celtics captain Paul Pierce said. "We really wanted to come out and get this one."

The Pistons will host Game 4 on Monday night.

"They got home court back," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "Monday is a crucial game for us -- the biggest of the year."

Rasheed Wallace of the Pistons disagreed.

"I don't see it as a big thing," he said, choosing not to make his latest guarantee. "It's all about whoever gets to four."

Boston's Big Three scored as much as its supporting cast.

"We were very balanced," Garnett said. "We have to somehow duplicate that."

Garnett, Ray Allen (14) and Pierce (11) combined for 47 points to match the rest of the team. Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo and James Posey each scored 12 for the Celtics.

"Their role players really hurt us," Saunders said.

Detroit's Richard Hamilton scored 26 points, rookie Rodney Stuckey added 17 and Wallace added 12.

Two of the Pistons' starters had awful games.

Tayshaun Prince scored four points and Chauncey Billups had six, combining to shoot 3-for-17.

Billups appeared to be slowed after aggravating his right hamstring injury in Game 2.

"I don't think anybody is 100 percent at this point," Garnett said.

Boston scored the first 11 points as six players scored.

The Celtics led 50-32 after holding Detroit to a playoff-low in the first half and getting at least two points from each of the nine Celtics who played.

"We didn't come out and play. That's it, point blank," Stuckey said. "We didn't give no effort at all at the start of the game, and you can't do that against a team like that."

The Pistons pulled within 13 early in the second half only to have their comeback hopes dashed by the Celtics' 12-0 run.

Boston led by 20-plus points late in the third quarter and ABC-TV showed mercy for Saunders, letting him off the hook for his previously scheduled interview before the fourth.

Besides making shots and playing tough defense, the Celtics beat Detroit to a lot of loose balls and offensive rebounds.

Garnett went to the bench with two fouls 5 minutes into the game and his replacement, P.J. Brown, promptly dunked on his first offensive possession.

"I thought that was the biggest part of the game for us," Rivers said.

The Pistons responded with a 13-0 run to go ahead for the first time only to let the Celtics score the last 10 points of the quarter and take a 25-17 lead.

After the Pistons pulled within four early in the second quarter, Boston went on a 16-3 run and maintained the cushion. Pierce had just two points, making the 18-point lead at halftime even more impressive.

Garnett's jumper on the opening possession of the second half put Boston ahead by 20 before Detroit showed some signs of life.

The Pistons pulled within 13 midway through the third, leading to a Celtics timeout.

Boston then scored seven straight, forcing Detroit to call a timeout to search for answers again.

Detroit rallied to pull within 87-78 -- its smallest deficit since midway through the second quarter -- with 3 minutes left, but couldn't get closer in a game in which it trailed by as many as 24 points.

"The way we play, we try to grind it out," Saunders said. "It's tough to play from behind like that."

It's also difficult to play the Celtics when they perform as they did as visitors when they won an NBA-high 31 games before the playoffs.

"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 here and try to show them,' " Pierce said.

Game notes
The Pistons' loss put a damper on an unprecedented night in sports. The Motor City became the first metropolitan area to host a Stanley Cup finals game and an NBA conference finals game on the same day, according to STATS LLC, and Detroit hosted Minnesota in baseball as a bonus at the same time as the other two games. The crowd cheered when the videoboards showed -- Red Wings 4, Penguins 0 -- then got even louder when they displayed another score: Tigers 19, Twins 3. ... The Pistons had their first white-out promotion, giving each fan a white T-shirt to wear, and Saunders said there was "no chance" he would wear a white suite as Louisville's Rick Pitino did last season in a similar situation. ... Faces in the crowd included Bob Seger, Anita Baker, Chuck Daly, Jalen Rose and Danny Manning. ... Boston PG Sam Cassell had five points in 8 minutes after not playing in the first two games. ... The Pistons missed 12 of 13 3-pointers.