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Pistons avoid another letdown, beat Celtics

The SportsXchange

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Greg Monroe couldn't take another fourth-quarter collapse. The Detroit Pistons had blown double-digit, second-half leads in their first three home games but weren't about to let another one slip away.

Led by Monroe's 20 points and 13 rebounds, they took command in the third quarter and cruised to a 103-83 victory over the Boston Celtics at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Sunday.

"It opened our eyes," Monroe said of the previous collapses. "Those are games we should have won. We could have controlled that."

Jason Maxiell contributed 15 points for the Pistons, who had six double-figure scorers and won for just the second time this season. Kyle Singler and Rodney Stuckey had 14 apiece as the Pistons shot 54.2 percent and outrebounded Boston, 39-30.

Detroit's defense held the Celtics to 31.6 percent shooting in the second and third quarters, and Boston had six more turnovers (18) than assists.

"We had really good defensive energy bridging those quarters and that's what it's going to take for us," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "It's not about getting the ball or getting your touches; it's about getting stops. The two games we've won, we've seen a defensive commitment."

Rookie Jared Sullinger had 16 points and Kevin Garnett supplied 15 for Boston (6-5), which had won four of its previous five games. Rajon Rondo added 12 points and 10 assists, extending his streak of 10 or more assists to 34 games. But coach Doc Rivers had to leave Rondo in the game during garbage time to get four fourth-quarter assists so that he could keep the streak going.

"Why not?" Rivers said of keeping Rondo in the game. "You guys keep talking about it, so I figured I would give him a shot at it. It's funny, the harder we tried, the worse we got at that."

Detroit gave up 66 points in the second half to Orlando Friday but held the Celtics to 14 third-quarter points while extending a five-point halftime lead to 18. That advantage never dropped below 12 points in the fourth.

"We feel that was a game we let slip away," Monroe said of the 110-106 loss to the Magic. "We didn't want to have another game where we had a fourth-quarter lead and gave it up. Guys were really focused on finishing the game."

Maxiell scored six points in the first five minutes of the second half, including a pair of mid-range jumpers. When Tayshaun Prince made a baseline jumper with 5:17 left in the third, Detroit's lead was up to 12 at 63-51.

An 8-0 run that included four Stuckey free throws and an Andre Drummond fast-break layup bumped the Pistons' lead to 18.

"Dead men walking," Rivers said of his team, which was playing for the fourth time in five nights. "That is what it felt like. Give Detroit credit, I thought they played extremely hard, but I could see it early. We just had no legs."

The teams traded baskets and turnovers most of the first half, with neither team leading by more than seven until the final minute. Rondo answered a late Detroit 6-0 run with a 3-pointer as the Pistons led 48-43 at halftime.

Monroe and Corey Maggette had eight points apiece in the first half, allowing Detroit to overcome 12 first-half turnovers. Rondo had 10 points and five assists but also committed three of Boston's eight turnovers in the half. Rondo was coming off the sixth 20-assist game of his career against Toronto Saturday, one more than all players in franchise history combined.

Detroit's late run was fueled by Maxiell, who blocked a Rondo shot and made an 18-foot jumper. Maxiell finished the first half with seven points and six rebounds.

"It was a tough stretch for us," Celtics guard Courtney Lee said. "We had seven games in 10 days. The game before, every shot was going in for us. Today, we couldn't make a shot."

NOTES: The Pistons averted the third 1-10 start in franchise history. They had one win after 11 games in two previous seasons, 1962-63 and 1980-81. They also started out 2-9 during the lockout-shortened season a year ago and finished 25-41. ... Boston reserve center and former Piston Darko Milicic missed the game for personal reasons. ... Rondo's assist streak is third all-time behind Magic Johnson's 46 (spanning the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons) and John Stockton's 37 (spanning the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons). ... Maggette added 12 points off the bench for Detroit.
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