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“It was very frustrating,” Villanueva said. “Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me.”

Garnett’s injury eventually put a stop to that chippy matchup. Villanueva went scoreless in the first half, but contributed 11 points in the third quarter and finished with 14.

Tayshaun Prince added 18 points for Detroit.

Paul Pierce scored 33 points for the Celtics, but he was fighting a losing battle on this night.

Down 12, Boston began the fourth quarter with a lineup of Pierce, Jermaine O’Neal, Marquis Daniels, Von Wafer and Luke Harangody — not exactly the lineup the Celtics hope will take them back to the finals for the third time in four seasons.

Rivers was called for a technical foul early in the fourth, and a basket inside by Greg Monroe gave Detroit a 77-62 lead. The Pistons maintained a comfortable advantage the rest of the way.

Garnett’s injury in 2009 hurt Boston’s attempt to win a second straight title that year. He had injured the knee going up for an alley-oop in a game against Utah, then aggravated the injury later in the season.

“I was worried, because I saw the play in Utah where he got hurt the first time, and this looked exactly the same,” O’Neal said. “I know it took him a long time to come back from that one, so it is good that it sounds like this is something different. I know from experience how bad it is to try to get back from leg injuries.”<

Notes:Pistons G Rodney Stuckey missed the game because of a stomach virus. McGrady started in his place. … Detroit shot 55.7 percent from the field. … The Celtics turned the ball over 21 times, including six by Ray Allen and five by Pierce.