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Paul Pierce’s 22 points set the tone for the Celtics winning their fourth game in a row, beating the Detroit Pistons 86-82 as a disgruntled Richard Hamilton rode the bench for the visitors.
Kevin Garnett totaled 11 points and six rebounds in only his second game back from a leg injury that forced him out for 9 games straight. Shaquille O’Neal had 12 points and 12 rebounds, including hitting the deck in a loose ball scrum in the sec0nd quarter. Ray Allen hit the go-ahead jumper with only :25 remaining, which gave the Celtics their first lead of the second half.
Rodney Stuckey scored 15 points for Detroit who saw their three-game winning streak come to a halt. Pistons coach John Kuester made some tweaks to his rotation, benching Richard Hamilton and inserting rookie Greg Monroe at center and Tracy McGrady at point guard. Monroe paid dividends, scoring 13 and grabbing 9 rebounds. McGrady scored just 5 points but dished 7 assists.
“We competed with the best team in the East, and one of the better teams in this league, on their home court,” Pistons guard Tracy McGrady said. “If we can give this type of effort night-in and night-out, we’re going to give ourselves a chance. We just have to learn how to close out games and to execute down the stretch.”
Though the Celtics were never out of reach, after tying the game at 76 they still couldn’t take bake the lead. With under three minutes to play, Monroe struck again with a reverse layup to push the lead to 4 at 82-78. But just as soon as that, Garnett made a bucket down low and a Pierce jumper followed to give the Celtics a tie game and momentum. McGrady would miss on the ensuing Detroit possession, and Garnett looked to score again. Though he missed a just-out-of-his-range jumper, Rajon Rondo grabbed the rebound and called a heady timeout to set up a play.
As they usually do, the Celtics ran Allen off a high screen to get him open in 3-point range on the right side. He drilled the basket which replays showed a foot on the line, thus making the score 84-82 and enough for the Celtics to hold on.