AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Under Larry Brown, the Detroit Pistons were often called boring.
Flip Saunders has changed that.
“We just have a little bit more freedom,” said Rasheed Wallace, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds. “L.B. is a more technical coach, who wants you to run your sets, but Flip says that if we see an opening, we should go ahead and attack.”
Chauncey Billups started Detroit’s rally, scoring 17 points in the third quarter.
“I started to feel it, so I got aggressive,” Billups said. “This is absolutely due to Flip’s style. Just look at what we can do when we start forcing turnovers.”
The Pistons overcame a 13-point third-quarter deficit to record the third-best start in team history, trailing 1970-71 (9-0) and the championship team of 1988-89 (8-0).
“We can still get stops and we can score 67 in a half,” Saunders said. “That shows the players that they can get it done at both ends of the floor, which is going to be big for their confidence as we go through the season.”
Detroit, which outscored Boston by 25 points in the second half, also got 25 points from Richard Hamilton.
“It came down to the fact that they’ve been together and they trusted each other,” said Boston coach Doc Rivers. “They made a run and they played great defense. You knew they were going to do that.”
Boston used runs of nine and 12 points in the first half to take a 58-48 lead at halftime. Davis finished with 22 points in the first two quarters on 10-of-13 shooting, while the Celtics shot 67 percent (26-for-39) as a team.
The Celtics led 65-52 early in the third, but Billups had 10 points in a 14-4 run that pulled Detroit to 73-72 late in the period.
Pierce scored the next five points, but Billups answered with five of his own before Pierce ended the duel with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer. That gave him 15 in the period, and put Boston up 81-77 going into the fourth.
“I just put them on my back and took them to the fourth quarter,” Billups said. “Then the other guys took over for me.”
Detroit then scored the first seven points of the fourth to take an 84-81 lead. The last two points came after Dan Dickau was called for a flagrant foul after hitting Hamilton in the face and knocking off his mask.
The Pistons finished with 38 points in the fourth.
“They really took the intensity to another level,” Davis said.
Boston’s 58 points in the first half were six more than any team had scored against the Pistons in a half this season. … Darko Milicic got some rare early action, scoring two points in four first-half minutes. He struggled badly guarding Al Jefferson and was replaced by Antonio McDyess. … Tayshaun Prince held Pierce scoreless until the final five minutes of the first half. Pierce said last week that he did not think Prince was a “great defender.”