Celtics rally, but don't have enough in end


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons know they should
have put Boston away. They were lucky to hold on and win.

Corliss Williamson scored 10 fourth-quarter points, including
the go-ahead free throws with 33.9 seconds left, and Detroit beat
the Celtics 86-83 Tuesday night.

The Pistons led by 10 going into the final quarter against a
team that was missing All-Star forward Antoine Walker (knee) and
Tony Delk (ankle).

"We are a much better team than we showed tonight," Ben
Wallace said. "We had a chance to get this game over with and get
a chance to rest some guys. Instead, we let them hang around and
turn the game into a dogfight."

Paul Pierce, selected along with Walker as an All-Star reserve
earlier in the day, had 30 points for the Celtics in the first
meeting between the teams since Boston beat Detroit in five games
in the second round of last year's playoffs.

"They made the plays down the stretch and we didn't," Pierce
said. "Detroit really has a lot of weapons out there and they are
going to definitely be a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs.
Tonight, though, it was just a matter of execution."

Chauncey Billups led the Pistons with 16 points, while Richard
Hamilton added 14 and Williamson 12.

"Give Boston credit, they fought hard without a couple of their
best guys," Billups said. "We tried to put them away, but we
ended up having to scratch and claw for everything tonight. That's
what has been happening for us lately. Teams are really fighting
against us."

Walter McCarty's 3-pointer with 1:53 left pulled Boston to
82-81, and Pierce gave the Celtics a one-point lead with two free

On the other end, Williamson's free throws put Detroit back up
by a point.

Pierce missed and Wallace grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Wallace missed both free throws, but Cliff Robinson and Tony Battie
tied up the rebound for a jump ball with 10.7 seconds to go.

Battie knocked the ball out of bounds and Billups made it a
three-point game with two shots from the line.

McCarty stepped out of bounds before he could get off a 3, and
even after Billups missed two free throws, Boston couldn't get off
another shot.

Boston coach Jim O'Brien said McCarty should never even have
touched the ball.

"We said that if Walter wasn't open, the ball should go to
Paul," he said. "Walter wasn't open, but we forced it to him
anyway. We should have gone to the second option."

Billups breathed a huge sigh of relief after his two misses from
the line didn't end up costing Detroit the game.

"I couldn't believe I missed those two shots -- I can't even
remember the last time I missed two free throws at the end of a
game,'' he said. I just felt off all night -- even the two I made
on the possession before didn't feel good."

In all, Detroit missed 13 free throws, including 10 in the
second half.

"We had a stretch like this in the preseason, and we got
ourselves out of it," Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'm not
worried -- it is just a matter of getting focused and getting back
into a routine."

Pierce scored 22 points in the second half, and Battie finished
with 16 for Boston.

The Pistons led 44-38 at the half, only to see Boston cut the
margin to one by scoring the first five points of the third

Detroit, though, responded with an 11-2 run that included three
3-pointers -- two by Billups.

The Pistons led 67-57 on Wallace's tip-in at the third-quarter
buzzer, but Boston started the fourth with an 8-1 run that pulled
it within three with 10 minutes to play.

Williamson and rookie Mehmet Okur were the only Pistons to score
in the first eight minutes of the fourth, but their 13 points were
enough to keep Detroit in the lead.

"Those two really kept us alive," Carlisle said. "Mehmet
knocked down a couple key 3-pointers, and I expect to see more and
more of that as he continues to get comfortable with what we are

Game notes
Walker and Pierce also played in the 2002 All-Star game.
Walker also played in 1998. ... Walker hopes to play when the teams
meet again Friday in Boston. ... Wallace's tip-in at the end of the
third was originally ruled to have come after the horn, but
official Ron Garretson changed the call after a video review.