Can Pistons leader Billups walk the walk on a sore hamstring?
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Celtics guard Ray Allen was so excited after his team's Game 3 victory over the Pistons on Saturday night that he couldn't sleep when he got back to the team hotel.
"I went to bed about five o'clock in the morning," Allen said Sunday, adding that he watched TV to kill the time.
"There's just something about going from a building full of 20,000 people, especially a late game, and coming back to the hotel. ... You're just wired."
Allen and the Celtics can hardly be blamed for feeling a little geeked. Their impressive 94-80 victory enabled them to finally silence the doubters who said they couldn't win on the road. More important, it gave Boston a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals heading into Monday night's Game 4 at the Palace.
Now the Celtics have a golden opportunity to put the Pistons in a hole from which even that famous do-it-the-hard-way bunch might not be able to climb out.
"We just have to stay aggressive at both ends and continue to communicate," said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who led a balanced attack with 22 points and 13 rebounds in Game 3. "Come back and try to get another one."
Boston's task could be a lot easier if Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups isn't close to 100 percent healthy. Bothered by a sore hamstring he reaggravated in Game 2, Billups had just six points (on 1-of-6 shooting) and four assists in 27 minutes Saturday.
Even more startling, he didn't look at all like himself in terms of running the Pistons' attack. He didn't exploit his size advantage over slender second-year point guard Rajon Rondo. He didn't get the Pistons in their sets, or get them to move the ball to the weak side when Boston overplayed the strong side.
"I didn't do a good job leading," Billups admitted Sunday. "Not just shooting the ball. ... I didn't step up enough vocally when guys were missing coverages and things weren't going right."
Billups wouldn't use his bad wheel as an excuse for his off game, but he said he expected to undergo seven or eight hours of therapy Sunday in an effort to get it in the best possible condition. He also said he gave no thought to sitting out Game 4, even though rookie backup Rodney Stuckey has played well as his replacement.
"I think at this juncture of the season you can't sit out," he said. "I'm the leader of this team, or one of the main leaders. No matter what's going on, I feel I'm better off on the court."
The Pistons' other main objective Monday will be to get off to a good start. Detroit fell behind 11-0 in Game 3, forcing it to play uphill the rest of the way. It has become something of a bugaboo this postseason for Detroit, which dropped games against the Sixers and Magic in earlier rounds after falling into big holes early.
"It's the same old, same old," said guard Rip Hamilton, who scored 26 points and was about the only Detroit starter to play well in Game 3. "We've got to do a better job coming out early and setting a tone."
"It just wears you down," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "You can't keep playing from behind like that."
The trick for the Celtics, of course, will be to withstand that early energy surge by the Pistons and once again take what is sure to be a raucous Palace crowd out of the game.
Boston also knows it is up against a Detroit team that has been here before. Three years ago, the Pistons lost Game 3 at home to the Heat to fall behind 2-1 in the Eastern finals, but won Game 4 en route to a seven-game series victory.
"We know what we have to do," Allen said. "Whatever they give us, we just have to match it."
Allen and the rest of his Boston teammates presumably got their sleep Sunday night. They are going to need every ounce of energy in Game 4.