- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2008

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Boston got past an old nemesis to set up a matchup with another rival.

Paul Pierce scored 27 points, Ray Allen had 17 and Kevin Garnett added 16 to lift the Celtics to an 89-81 victory over the Detroit Pistons last night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston, which locked up with Detroit many times in the 1980s, now will rekindle another classic series in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Pistons were eliminated on their homecourt for the first time during a six-year run that included a trip to the conference finals each year and the 2004 title.

Boston entered the series without a road win in the postseason, then beat Detroit on its homecourt twice to win the grueling series.

After playing two Game 7s, the Celtics will get a needed break before playing host to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Thursday night.

Chauncey Billups scored a playoff-high 29 points and Richard Hamilton had 21, but the rest of their teammates had lackluster efforts - especially Rasheed Wallace.

Wallace scored just four points on 2-for-12 shooting and had three turnovers in what might have been his last game with the Pistons and could have been Flip Saunders last as Detroit’s coach.

After it was 58-58, Detroit closed the third quarter with a 10-2 run and took its first lead since midway through the opening quarter.

Just when it seemed the Pistons might be in control with a 70-60 lead early in the fourth, the Celtics scored nine points in less than two minutes and went on a 19-4 run that put them ahead 79-74.

Billups’ three-point play pulled Detroit to 83-79 with 2:24 left, then the Pistons wasted a chance to get closer.

Boston’s defense held Detroit to 13 points in the final quarter on 6-for-18 shooting. The Pistons missed all eight of their 3-point attempts in the period.

Tayshaun Prince grabbed a loose ball after a Boston miss and turned the ball over when James Posey surprised him from behind and snatched it away.

Pierce made two free throws on the possession, putting the Celtics up by six with 1 1/2 minutes to go.

The Pistons failed on their 3-pointers down the stretch and couldn’t take advantage of Garnett missing two free throws with 36 seconds left.

The Pistons were eliminated at home for the first time since Pierce helped Boston do it in the second round of the 2002 playoffs. Detroit had won its previous five games this postseason when coming off a loss.

Detroit lost Game 6 of the conference finals for the third straight year and with only one title and two NBA Finals appearances during its impressive six-year run, the franchise will draw more comparisons to baseball’s Atlanta Braves.

The Celtics, meanwhile, validated their bold move of adding Garnett and Allen to Pierce to form a Big Three. They played key roles in the decisive fourth quarter, helping Boston outscore Detroit 29-13.

Boston point guard Rajon Rondo scored 11 points, and Kendrick Perkins added seven points and seven rebounds.

Unlike early games in the series, neither team jumped out to a big lead in the opening minutes.

Boston led 24-21 after five lead changes - the last coming at the 6:12 mark - and a tie in the first quarter and a negated shot.

Pistons rookie Rodney Stuckey made a jumper late in the quarter, but it was waved off after a video review showed the ball in his hand when the shot clock expired.

Allen and Hamilton, in a matchup of Connecticut greats, had 10 points apiece in the first quarter to lead both teams.

After the Celtics went ahead by seven, Billups made a 3-pointer and later a free throw to pull Detroit within a point.

Garnett then went to the bench with three fouls and 3:11 left in the first half, and seldom-used reserve Leon Powe replaced him and matched the superstar’s point total of four points to help Boston lead 40-37 at halftime.

Garnett opened the game by making his first two shots, then missed his final eight attempts in the first half.

Both teams had two starters making shots and three putting up bricks.

Billups and Hamilton were a combined 11-for-19, while the other three starters were 1-for-12. Wallace and Prince missed all five of their shots.

Allen and Pierce combined to go 9-for-15. The rest of the starters were 5-for-21.

Garnett and Prince both ended their skids by making jumpers early in the second half.

Prince scored nine points in the third to help Detroit score 31 in the quarter after being held to just 37 in the first half.

Antonio McDyess made two free throws with three minutes left in the third quarter to put Detroit ahead as part of a 22-6 run that gave it a 10-point cushion early in the fourth.

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