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Final say

Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff  May 25, 2008 12:04 AM

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The Celtics finally found the winning formula on the road.

After what coach Doc Rivers called "losing their security blanket" after surrendering homecourt advantage Thursday night, the Celtics from the opening tip wanted to prove that having the league's best road record in the regular season was no fluke.

With Kevin Garnett leading six Celtics in double figures with 22 points, the Celtics tonight earned a 94-80 victory at a sold-out Palace at Auburn Hills to take a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Game 4 is here Monday night at 8:30 p.m.

"I told you guys [the media] before the game, I told you yesterday, we've been a very good road team all year. We just lost in the playoffs," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Nobody talked about it with our team, they really didn't."

The Celtics controlled the game throughout, only trailing once with 1:54 left in the first quarter after Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace gave his team a 17-15 lead.

Garnett picked up his second foul and headed to the bench with seven minutes in the first quarter with the Celtics leading, 11-4.

The Celtics' role players responded to the challenge.

The play after KG went to the bench, his replacement P.J. Brown scored on a dunk off a feed from guard Rajon Rondo (12 points, 4 assists), which was followed by dunk by Kendrick Perkins (12 points and 10 rebounds).

The Celtics appeared to come unglued when point guard Sam Cassell entered the series for the first time.

"Sam, the first two minutes he was rattled," Rivers said. "Not just he was rattled, he just hadn't played. That's why I left him on the floor. We needed him in this game so our second unit can run their offense."

In the process, the Pistons responded with an 11-0 run capped by Wallace's put-back that gave the Pistons their only lead of the night.

Then the Celtics' bench went to work, going on a 10-0 run, sparked by 3-pointers from James Posey (12 points) and Cassell to close out the first quarter.

"I'll tell you, it was good to see Sam get some," Garnett said. "I know he can help us more. Posey, good to see guys get in rhythm. It was a good effort on the part of everyone tonight."

What was also good to see return for the Celtics was their defensive effort, holding the Pistons to 38.4 percent shooting from the field, including 1 of 13 from the 3-point line.

Meanwhile, the Celtics shot 46 percent from the field and got contributions from everyone, including the bench. The Celtics also dominated the glass, outrebounding the Pistons, 44-28.

The Celtics bench at halftime outscored the Pistons' starters, 19-18.

"They [the reserves] were great," Rivers said. "The first couple of minutes we struggled then we caught our wind, the ball moved, we changed sides, guys got shots. Pose made two terrific cuts out of the timeout and got us one 3-point play, and I thought that gave them confidence,"

Ray Allen scored 14 points, Paul Pierce added 11.

Richard Hamilton led the Pistons with 26 points and rookie reserve Rodney Stuckey added 17.

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