The Detroit Pistons dealt the Boston Celtics their first home defeat of the National Basketball Association playoffs on Thursday with a 103-97 triumph.
Richard Hamilton scored 25 points for the Pistons, who evened their best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series at one game apiece. The winner of the series advances to the NBA Finals.
Chauncey Billups chipped in 19 points for the Pistons, who host Game 3 today.
Billups showed no sign of any lingering effects of a hamstring injury, playing 32 minutes without a turnover.
The Celtics, who trailed for the first time heading into the fourth quarter at home this postseason, cut their deficit to two points on Ray Allen’s jumper with 4:36 left, but they could get no closer.
Allen broke out of a slump, scoring 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting for the Celtics.
Now the pressure is on the Celtics to do what they haven’t yet done this postseason, which is win on the road.
They are now 9-1 at home, but have lost all six of their road games spanning two series against Atlanta and Cleveland.
“We’ve got to find a way to win one on the road, that’s what it is,” Boston’s Kevin Garnett said.
“It’s a big win, but we don’t settle for less. We don’t look at it as they’re undefeated at home. We look at it as we have an opportunity to win,” said Hamilton, whose running shot in the final minute helped seal the victory for the Pistons.
Billups had just nine points and two assists in 31 minutes in the series opener, when he returned after missing two games.
But he was in dominant form on Thursday, helping Detroit take charge in the second quarter and respond to a third-quarter surge by the Celtics.
Billups scored 11 points in the first half as Detroit took a 50-43 advantage at the interval.
“One thing I told Chauncey was you don’t have to be overaggressive out there,” Hamilton said. “You can take your time and be the captain of our ship. He just stayed poised, directed us, put guys in position to succeed.”
Allen found his rhythm early in the third period, spearheading the Celtics’ 15-4 burst to start the period.
But Billups found Hamilton for the first of three straight 3-pointers by the Pistons, the last coming from Billups on the wing that gave the Pistons a 63-60 lead midway through the third.
Allen, who had averaged just 9.0 points over his last nine playoff games, helped the Celtics chip away with 10 points in the fourth quarter.
But Billups had a reverse layup in the final minute before a handful of free throws by his teammates put the game out of reach.
Antonio McDyess added 15 points and Tayshaun Prince scored 14 for the Pistons, who shot 28-of-32 from the free-throw line.
Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for 75 points for Boston.