There's a New Sheriff in the East


There's a New Sheriff in the East

In an intense contest between the East's top two teams, the Celtics defeated the Pistons, 90-78, last night in front of a sellout crowd at TD Banknorth Garden.

Boston leads Detroit by four games in the conference standings, and has won two of the three meetings this season.

Celtics forward Kevin Garnett scored a season-high 31 points on 13-of-22 shooting. Rajon Rondo added 16 points, Paul Pierce 15, and Kendrick Perkins grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds. Boston has won nine straight games at home and six straight overall.

Big games are nothing new for the Pistons, who have played in the last five Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics had varying points of views on last night's showdown, which Bill Russell and K.C. Jones watched from the stands.

"This is the biggest game of the year," said new forward-center P.J. Brown. "To be on the bench and in uniform means a lot."

Said Ray Allen: "What is this, game 59? It's business as usual."

The Pistons trailed, 41-28, after the first quarter at home against the Sonics Tuesday night before rallying for a 100-97 victory. Last night, the Celtics raced to leads of 10-0 and 17-3 as the Pistons missed eight of their first nine shots. With 5:33 remaining in the first quarter and Boston up, 17-7, Allen was called for a technical foul after knocking Rip Hamilton to the floor with an elbow. The Celtics finished the quarter with a 23-17 lead, shooting 58.8 percent and limiting Detroit to 26.1 percent.

Garnett scored 10 straight points to give Boston a 38-28 advantage with 4:34 left in the second quarter. He finished the half with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, as the Celtics held a 47-37 lead.

Pistons guard Chauncey Billups had 5 points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half. However, Billups scored 11 points to trim Detroit's deficit to 59-54 in the third quarter.

Rondo responded with a strong dunk plus a foul over Jason Maxiell with 5:07 left in the quarter. A lay-in by Tayshaun Prince with 3.8 seconds left sliced Detroit's deficit to 69-67.

Billups scored 18 points in the third on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and 11-of-11 at the line. Rondo was called for three fouls in the quarter while guarding Billups.

Prince tied the game at 69 with 10:52 remaining. Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace picked up his fifth foul while guarding Garnett with 9:03 left. Wallace pleaded with coach Flip Saunders to leave him in, but Antonio McDyess replaced him. After a brief hiatus, Wallace nailed a 3-pointer with 6:19 left to bring Detroit within 76-74.

Celtics guard Tony Allen followed with a lay-in with 6:01 left, but was called for a technical for celebrating. Hamilton made the free throw to make it 78-75. A 3-pointer by Pierce gave the Celtics an 81-77 lead with 5:12 remaining.

After being called for an offensive foul, Billups was given a technical by referee Steve Javie with 4:49 left. Ray Allen made the free throw to give Boston an 82-77 advantage. A Pierce lay-in gave Boston an 85-77 lead with 2:56 remaining. Rondo sealed the game with a 3-point play with 1:59 remaining to give the Celtics an 88-77 lead.

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