AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—Paul Pierce stood in the corner with the ball and paused a little longer than he needed to, as if daring the Detroit Pistons to come out and guard him. Then he calmly made another open shot to give Boston a 20-point lead.
It was that kind of night for the Celtics. Even without Shaquille O'Neal, Boston rolled past Detroit 109-86 on Tuesday night, executing its offense brilliantly against the downtrodden Pistons. Pierce scored 21 points, and Rajon Rondo added 17 assists.
And Boston's team totals were just as impressive.
"There's not a coach in America who wouldn't take 33 assists and eight turnovers," coach Doc Rivers said.
Rondo had a triple-double with 24 assists Friday night against New York, and his big night Tuesday gave him 67 assists through Boston's first four games. The way Rondo was playing, the Celtics didn't even need O'Neal, who sat out the game because of a bruised knee.
Boston hardly missed him against the undersized Pistons, who are off to their first 0-4 start since November 1999.
Detroit lost forward Jonas Jerebko in the preseason to a torn Achilles' tendon, and 6-foot-11, 205-pound Austin Daye has been playing power forward. Daye scored 16 points, one of five Pistons in double figures, but Detroit's defense couldn't contain Rondo. The Boston point guard helped his team shoot 52 percent from the field, and the game was never really in doubt in the fourth quarter.
"He's unbelievable. He played the perfect floor game tonight," Pierce said. "He had 17 assists and no turnovers. You can't get any better than that."
Rondo also scored nine points, and Kevin Garnett added 22.
"We knew we had an advantage with Kevin in the post, so we were going to try to exploit that," Rivers said. "They didn't try to do much trapping, and the few times they did, we did a great job of moving the ball to the open man."
Charlie Villanueva scored 17 points for Detroit, which played without Richard Hamilton, who was out with a sore right foot.
O'Neal, who didn't make the trip, missed two straight practices since bruising his right knee against the Knicks. Jermaine O'Neal started and scored 12 points, and rookie Semih Erden made his debut for Boston. The Turkish 7-footer entered in the first quarter and quickly blocked two shots. He then scored his first NBA points on a breakaway dunk in the second that led to a Detroit timeout and put Boston ahead 39-28.
The Pistons were competitive in their first three games but fell behind 16-5 early in this one. Rondo made a 3-pointer to end the first half, giving Boston a 57-44 lead, and the Celtics poured it on in the third quarter. After his long pause in the corner, Pierce made a 3-pointer to put the Celtics up 86-66 and went back down the court shaking his head.
Detroit finished with only 13 assists, four fewer than Rondo.
"It starts with us in this locker room but it goes to everybody else as well," Detroit's Tayshaun Prince said. "When you're 0-4, you don't just look at the team, you've got to look at everybody as a whole."
Pierce needs 23 points to reach 20,000 for his career and will have a chance at that milestone when the Celtics host Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
Notes: Rivers had a brief dispute with referee Bob Delaney in the first quarter after Glen Davis was called for a technical foul. Rivers felt Delaney was misapplying the league's new guidelines against complaining. ... Rondo has 2,211 assists as a Celtic. He moved past Sam Jones (2,209) into 13th place on the team's career list. ... Boston made all 18 of its free throws.