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Pistons beat Celtics as Rajon Rondo keeps assist streak alive

  • Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe, right, drives against Boston Celtics forward Chris Wilcox in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Monroe led the Pistons with 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 103-83 win. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

    Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe, right, drives against Boston Celtics forward Chris Wilcox in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Monroe led the Pistons with 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 103-83 win. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler (25) goes to the basket against Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Singler scored 14 points in a 103-83 win. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

    Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler (25) goes to the basket against Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Singler scored 14 points in a 103-83 win. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green (8) drives to the basket past Detroit Pistons forward Corey Maggette (50) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

    Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green (8) drives to the basket past Detroit Pistons forward Corey Maggette (50) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett (5) shoots against Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

    Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett (5) shoots against Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Boston Celtics guard Leandro Barbosa (12) shoots against Detroit Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

    Boston Celtics guard Leandro Barbosa (12) shoots against Detroit Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, right, drives against Detroit Pistons forward Corey Maggette (50) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

    Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, right, drives against Detroit Pistons forward Corey Maggette (50) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe, right, drives against Boston Celtics forward Chris Wilcox in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Monroe led the Pistons with 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 103-83 win. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
  • Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler (25) goes to the basket against Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. Singler scored 14 points in a 103-83 win. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
  • Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green (8) drives to the basket past Detroit Pistons forward Corey Maggette (50) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
  • Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett (5) shoots against Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
  • Boston Celtics guard Leandro Barbosa (12) shoots against Detroit Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
  • Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, right, drives against Detroit Pistons forward Corey Maggette (50) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The finally held on to one Sunday night.

After blowing late leads to Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Orlando, the Pistons (2-9) pulled away down the stretch to beat the Boston Celtics 103-83.

The Celtics, playing their fourth game in five nights, hit only four 3-pointers and trailed by as many as 22 points.

“We knew what their schedule situation was, and we wanted to take advantage,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “Boston was still ultra-competitive tonight, but we were able to get key stops, and that opened everything up for us. We’ve gotten both of our wins with a tough defensive mindset. That’s the only way this team is going to consistently win games.”

Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Jason Maxiell added 15 points. Detroit had six players in double figures and shot 54.5 percent for the night.

“I think those (home) games opened our eyes,” Monroe said. “Those were all games we should have won, and we could have controlled them. I wouldn’t say losing them was a good thing, but it was an eye-opener.”

Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 16 points, while Kevin Garnett had 15.

“We can’t use the schedule as an excuse — this is the NBA and you have to play stretches like this,” Garnett said. “But when you see as many shots hit the front of the rim as we had tonight, you know that you don’t have your legs. You just have to fight through it, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

The only consolation for the Celtics was that, due to a concentrated effort in the fourth quarter, Rajon Rondo finished with 10 assists. That extended his double-digit streak to 34 games, the third longest in league history, but required Boston running a bizarre small-ball offense for the last several minutes designed strictly to get him assists.

“Why not?” Boston coach Doc Rivers asked. “The press keeps talking about it, so I figured I would give him a shot at it. The funny thing was that the harder we tried, the worse we got at it.”

Sullinger finally made the effort pay off, hitting a jumper with 51 seconds left to give Rondo his tenth assist, although Boston still trailed 101-81. Leandro Barbosa immediately went to the scorer’s table to take Rondo out of the game. Magic Johnson holds the NBA record with a 46-game streak in 1983-84 and John Stockton had a 37-game run in 1989.

Rondo acknowledged that the end of the game had been a bit strange, but didn’t feel bad about it.

“I don’t think that much about the streak, but I know that down the road, it will be something that I’m very proud that I accomplished,” he said. “People will probably talk about what happened tonight, but I don’t know. I wasn’t born when Magic had his streak, and I wasn’t watching yet when Stockton had his. There might have been games when they stayed in with a 30-point lead to get their streak going, but there wasn’t as much attention paid back then.”

Frank laughed off the issue.

“I guess the basketball gods were on his side tonight,” he said. “I wasn’t worried. I just know he’s a great basketball player.”

The Celtics dominated early, but the effects of the schedule had a clear impact in the second period. Boston missed 12 of its first 16 shots in the quarter, and only a series of Detroit turnovers kept the Pistons’ lead down to 48-43 at the half.

Things didn’t get any better in the third quarter for Boston, as the Pistons kept up the defensive pressure. Detroit outscored them 23-14 in the period, as Boston shot just 31.3 percent and turned the ball over seven times.

“We were dead men walking,” Rivers said. “That is what it felt like. Give Detroit credit, they played extremely hard, but we just had no legs.”

NOTES: Garnett was matched up with Pistons rookie Andre Drummond for long periods in each half. When Garnett was drafted in 1995, Drummond was still a month short of his second birthday. ... Rondo wasn’t the only Celtic struggling to get assists. The rest of Boston’s team combined for just two... Rondo’s last single-digit assist game was March 9 against Portland.

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