Baby Leads C's to Win at Auburn Hills
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - And a child shall lead them.
Make that a Big Baby.
Glen Davis scored 16 of his career-high 20 points in a fourth-quarter sneak attack that dumbfounded Detroit and lifted the Celtics to a 92-85 victory in the return match of the best two teams in the Eastern Conference.
Baby battered the Pistons with six buckets in as many attempts in the period, avenging the Celts' loss on Dec. 19.
Gone is Detroit's 11-game winning streak, while the Celts won their ninth in a row and improved to a far-and-away league-best 29-3.
Paul Pierce added 19 points and Kevin Garnett had 15 in a defensive struggle that saw the Celts shoot 42 percent and the Pistons 39 percent.
The value of Garnett was abundantly clear in the first half when the Celts managed to get away with just a 43-41 deficit. With the foul-troubled Garnett on the floor, the visitors outscored Detroit by 14 points.
The C's got the lead back briefly in the third quarter, but two technicals - one to coach Doc Rivers near the end of the period and another to Kendrick Perkins after the buzzer - had the Pistons up 66-63 when play resumed for the fourth.
Sent in to deal defensively with the wide and active Jason Maxiell, Davis began to assert himself on the other end of the floor. When he took a Garnett feed and powered inside for a three-point play midway through the final frame, the Celts had a five-point lead.
The margin remained when Pierce followed a Richard Hamilton turnaround with a steal and fast-break dunk, and, after a Pistons free throw, the C's messed up three chances to expand on that edge before Hamilton drilled a trey from the right corner with 2:36 left.
Davis then drove lefty past Rasheed Wallace and was fouled while scoring. He completed the three-point play, and Tony Allen added two free throws on the next possession.
The Pistons did have a chance to tie in the final seconds but Chauncey Billups airballed a trey.
Pistons officials were describing the game as the toughest regular-season ticket since 1991 when Michael Jordan and the Bulls came in to play the two-time defending champions.
With good reason.
Things couldn't have begun much better for the Celts. They watched Billups reply to a Perkins dunk with a trey and then hit back with eight straight points for a 10-3 lead.
Perkins had the Celtics' first three hoops, taking advantage of Antonio McDyess. Pierce hit two free throws and Rajon Rondo stuck a jumper.
That latter hoop with 8:59 left would become painfully memorable for the C's because it would be their last points until a Tony Allen 15-footer with 59.4 seconds on the clock.
In the interim, the Celts went 0-for-10 from the floor and turned the ball over twice. The Pistons took the opportunity to score 17 straight points and go up by 10. Maxiell replaced McDyess and dunked twice to start the run. Wallace had the last seven points, hitting two mid-lane turnarounds and a trey.
Much of the mess can be traced to the fact that Garnett went to the bench with his second foul with 7:34 to go in the quarter.
The Pistons took a 22-12 lead into the second period, where Maxiell hit two free throws for the biggest margin of the half (12 points). It was 28-17 when Garnett returned, and soon the Celts were off on a 14-4 run. He had just three points in the span, but his presence under the glass was key.
Garnett was given his third foul and a seat for the last 3:10 of the half. The Celtics got even, but a Richard Hamilton hoop with 28.5 seconds left put Detroit up, 43-41, at the half.