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Published: Saturday, 5/31/2008

Celtics close out Pistons at the Palace

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Entering the fourth quarter of the NBA Eastern Conference finals Game 6 last night, the Pistons were in control.

But they couldn't finish. Detroit hasn't been able to finish in the conference finals for three years.

Boston won at the Palace last night, 89-81, to win the series 4-2 and advance to the NBA finals. Paul Pierce had 18 of his 27 points in the second half

All of the Celtics' starters, including the "big three" of Kevin Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen, will make their first NBA finals appearance.

Detroit had a 10-point lead early in the fourth, but six turnovers in the quarter did them in. The Pistons were eliminated from the conference finals for the third straight year.

Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton tried to lift up the Pistons, scoring 29 and 21 points, respectively, but the ineffectiveness of Rasheed Wallace hurt them.

Wallace was a nonfactor on offense, shooting 2-for-12 from the floor and finishing with four points.

Going into the fourth quarter the Pistons looked as if they could quickly have the game in hand. An eight-point lead after three was quickly increased to 10 on a Hamilton jumper.

The work the Pistons did in the third quarter was quickly cut down in the fourth, as Boston scored 10 straight points to tie the score at 70-70.

Pierce then went on a tear and scored the Celtics' next eight points to give Boston a five-point lead with four minutes left. The Pistons went ice-cold offensively and became turnover-prone.

Detroit fell down seven with 2:32 to play, but Billups gave the Pistons one last realistic chance with a leaning jumper while drawing a foul. That got the deficit down to four, and the Pistons then got a defensive stop, but James Posey tipped the ball out of Tayshaun Prince's hands and the Celtics recovered possession.

At that point the Pistons tried to get back into the game with 3-pointers, but their fatigue showed. All of their attempts fell short.

Allen and Garnett scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, and Rajon Rondo added 11. Prince was the only other Piston besides Billups and Hamilton in double figures with 10.

The Pistons erased a three-point halftime deficit with a 20-6 run in the last half of the third quarter. Prince keyed the run with nine points in the quarter. Almost all of it came with Garnett on the bench in foul trouble.

Prince's first 3-pointer since Game 1 gave the Pistons their first lead since the first quarter at 56-54.

Wallace tried several times to give the Pistons a boost with a 3-pointer but was 0-for-6. In the third quarter he was called for an offensive foul, his fourth, and spoke with the official about it. Pistons fans in the closest rows stood up and waved at Wallace to get away from the ref for fear he would pick up his seventh technical foul of the playoffs and receive a one-game suspension.

The Celtics had a 40-37 lead at halftime. Allen continued his hot streak from Game 5 in the first half last night with 13 points before the break.

Hamilton and Billups kept the Pistons close, scoring all but six of the Pistons' first-half points. Hamilton was going to be a game-time decision with a strained elbow, but said yesterday morning he would play. He made five of his first six shots to give the Pistons a spark.

Billups had 18 points in the first half, including two 3-pointers, and looked fully recovered from the hamstring injury he incurred earlier in the playoffs.

Garnett made just 2 of 10 shots in the first half and went to the bench with three fouls in the second quarter, but was 5 of 6 after halftime.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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