BOSTON — It appears rust played a larger role than pain in Chauncey Billups' mediocre performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Last night, the Detroit Pistons All-Star point guard looked like a completely different player.
Unlike Tuesday night, when the 6-foot-3 veteran looked timid due to his injured hamstring, Billups came out aggressive from the opening tip in last night's Game 2. His improved play across the stat sheet helped the visitors to a huge 103-97 victory as the best-of-seven series now shifts to Detroit for Game 3 tomorrow night (8:30 p.m.), knotted at 1-1.
It was the first time this postseason that the Celtics had lost at home. They are now 9-1 at the friendly confines of the Garden.
Before the game, Detroit head coach Flip Saunders said he expected Billups to find his groove, and the former Celtic responded to the tune of 19 points and 7 assists. He shot 5 for 10 from the floor and drained both of his 3-point attempts. A much better showing than the 9-point, two-assist performance from Billups in Game 1.
"(I wasn't going to watch Chauncey closely) because of how he was in the fourth quarter of Game 1," said Saunders. "I think he was a little bit more explosive."
Billups also demonstrated why he has been referred to as "Mr. Big Shot," with a tough reverse lay-up late in the contest off a Detroit inbounds pass with three seconds left on the shot clock. That bucket gave Detroit a 100-94 advantage with 18.7 seconds left.
Billups had a short answer on his health after the game.
"I'm good," he said.
Stuckey was the difference
With the starting lineups of both teams playing well, the game was begging for a difference-maker off the bench.
That role was filled by Detroit rookie guard Rodney Stuckey. The 6-foot-5 Eastern Washington University product did his best Vinnie Johnson impersonation as he went off for 13 points in 17 minutes. The points came efficiently for Detroit's new "Microwave," as he shot 5 for 8 from the floor and 3 for 3 from the line.