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Pistons prevail on road, tie series

- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2008

BOSTON (AP) - The Detroit Pistons proved that a visiting team can win in Boston. Now they can reach the NBA Finals without having to do it again.

Richard Hamilton bounced back from a poor series opener with 25 points, and the Pistons beat the Celtics 103-97 last night, tying the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece and seizing the homecourt advantage that has meant everything to the Celtics.

Chauncey Billups had 19 points and seven assists for the Pistons, who play host to Game 3 tomorrow night. Boston had won 15 straight at home and was 9-0 in the playoffs, but the only number that matters now is 0-6 - the Celtics' playoff road record.

Paul Pierce scored 26 points for the Celtics, and Ray Allen broke out of a shooting slump with 25, his best performance in three months. But he was limited to 29 minutes by foul trouble, picking up his fifth foul with 3:09 left in the third quarter after his flurry had given Boston the lead.

Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, who lost at home for the first time since March 24 against Phoenix. No team has reached the finals without a road victory, and there's no longer a chance for Boston to be the first.

Antonio McDyess scored 15 points, Tayshaun Prince had 14 and Rasheed Wallace and Rodney Stuckey scored 13 for the Pistons, who were rusty in Game 1 but found their groove in the second quarter, shooting 49 percent against the league's best defensive team.

The Pistons led 86-75 after Stuckey's jumper with 8:05 remaining, but Allen had seven points, including his first 3-pointer since Game 5 of the second round, during a 13-4 run that cut it to 90-88 with 4:39 to play.

Later, Boston was down four and forced Detroit to call a timeout with the shot clock about to run out but then blew the defensive assignment and left Billups alone for a layup on the inbounds. Detroit led 100-94 with 18 seconds left.

Another 3 by Allen cut it to three, but Wallace hit a free throw on the other end. The Pistons were 28-for-32 (87.5 percent) from the line.

Billups was limited to nine points in Game 1, his first action since straining his right hamstring early in Game 3 against Orlando in the second round.

He shed the tights he wore in the opener and came out aggressively, drawing a foul on the first possession and hitting two free throws. He added two free throws later in the first quarter when he appeared to create contact while attempting a 3-pointer by kicking the Celtics' Eddie House in the groin.

The Celtics missed their first six shots in the second quarter and didn't make a field goal until James Posey's 3-pointer with 7:03 left that tied it at 27-27. McDyess scored the next five points, and the Pistons led the remainder of the half, opening a 50-43 lead at the break.

Allen was limited to 11 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. He picked up his third with 8:41 to go and didn't play again until coming in when the Celtics had the ball in the final seconds of the half.

Boston stormed out of the half with a 15-4 surge, featuring eight points from Allen in his best stretch in a while, to open a 58-54 lead. The Pistons steadied themselves with 3-pointers by Hamilton, Wallace and Billups to regain the lead, and Allen later had to return to the bench when he picked up his fourth and fifth fouls.

Detroit went 4-for-5 from behind the arc in the quarter, with Wallace's 3 with 7.1 seconds left sending the Pistons to the final period with a 78-69 lead.