The Big Three has a big problem: The Detroit Pistons now own the home-court advantage that has meant everything to the Boston Celtics so far in the playoffs.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge for us, because we haven't won a game on the road," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said after Detroit beat Boston 103-97 on Thursday night to tie the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece. "We have no choice now but to get it done."
Richard Hamilton scored 25 and Chauncey Billups had 19 points and seven assists for Detroit to bounce back after struggling in Game — and hand the Celtics their first home loss of the playoffs.
The Pistons host Game — on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday, and with a third potential home date for Game 6 they could finish off the Celtics without having to win another game in Boston.
"We're geeked about getting back to our home court," Hamilton said. "The fans are excited, and now it's our job to take care of home court."
Rasheed Wallace had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit, Antonio McDyess scored 15 and Tayshaun Prince had 14.
Pierce scored 26, Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, who hadn't lost at home in 15 games since March 24. But even while dominating at home they've been blanked on the road, going 0-6 in away games so far in the postseason. No team has reached the finals without a road victory.
Boston won't be the first.
"At some point we're going to have to win on the road," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We've gotten away with it thus far. That's been taken away. And if we want what we want, we have to win on the road and that's just the way it is."
The encouraging news for the Celtics: Slumping shooter Ray Allen scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half to snap out of the funk that had pestered him since the first round of the playoffs.
But he was limited to about 291/2 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.
"I would rather be sitting here saying, 'I can't make a shot but we won the game,'" Allen said. "To have an impact is one thing, but to come away with the win is what everybody in this locker room (wants)."
The Pistons may have been rusty after having a week off before Game 1, but they turned the game around by outscoring Boston 32-23 in the second quarter. Rodney Stuckey hit some clutch jumpers in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Celtics bench by himself 13-8.
The Pistons led 86-75 after Stuckey's jumper with 8:05 remaining, but Allen had seven points, including his first 3-pointer in three games, during a 13-4 run that cut it to 90-88 with 4:39 to play. But Hamilton hit a short jumper and, after Garnett hit a 19-footer to cut the lead to two again, Prince hit a long 2-pointer.
Hamilton then blocked Allen's shot and assisted on Wallace's jumper to extend Detroit's lead to 96-90.
With the Pistons leading 98-94, they were forced to call time with the shot clock about to run out. But the Celtics blew the defensive assignment and left Billups alone for a layup on the inbounds and Detroit led 100-94 with 18 seconds left.
Notes: After a review, the NBA upgraded a foul Hamilton committed on Garnett early in the fourth quarter of Game — to a flagrant foul, penalty one on Thursday. Hamilton appeared to throw an elbow at Garnett's head while being picked. "It was instinct, it was flagrant. I can tell you that, we thought that at the time," Rivers said before the game. "But again, Rip's a good guy, great guy, and it's an emotional game, that kind of stuff happens." ... New England QB Tom Brady and girlfriend Gisele Bundchen watched from seats behind the baseline. ... Hamilton played in his 112th playoff game, tying Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars for second on the franchise's career list. He will tie Bill Laimbeer's team mark in Game 3. ... Billups was limited to nine points in Game 1, his first action since straining his right hamstring early in Game — against Orlando in the second round. ... Detroit went 4-of-5 from behind the arc in the third quarter, with Wallace's — with 7.1 seconds left sending the Pistons to the final period with a 78-69 lead.
Pistons take down Celtics, tie East finals