AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The Detroit Pistons provide plenty of fodder for those who want to criticize them for only playing their best when down or doubted.
Antonio McDyess doesn’t.
He often plays with the most energy on a team that traditionally peaks and flops depending on whether its up, even or behind in a series.
Playing his best game playoff game in perhaps a decade, McDyess had 21 points and 16 rebounds to lift Detroit to a 94-75 series-evening win over the Boston Celtics on Monday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The 33-year-old McDyess rejuvenated his injury-plagued career when he signed with the Pistons in 2004 — shortly after they won the NBA title — and refused to let a broken nose slow him down this postseason.
“You only have so many opportunities, and they’re limited, especially for me,” he said. “I’m at the end of my career, and I just feel like leaving everything out on the floor.”
McDyess did just that, beating the Celtics to loose balls, defending them with strength and quickness and making most of his shots.
“Dice has been our best player in the postseason, and we’re all feeding off his energy,” teammate and close friend Chauncey Billups said. “You see how hard he is working, and you can’t help but play hard.”
Playing hard probably won’t be a problem for either team or any player as the Eastern Conference finals becomes a best-of-three series.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Boston, then the Pistons will host Game 6 on Friday night. If necessary, the Celtics will be back at home Sunday night.
Boston’s Sam Cassell wasn’t surprised the Pistons played the way they did.
“When you’re down 2-1, you’ve got to be desperate,” Cassell said.
The Celtics desperately need their stars to play better than they did Monday.
Boston’s Big Three shot awfully as did most of the Celtics, but the NBA’s top-seeded team stayed competitive for much of the game thanks to a stark disparity in free throws.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined to miss their first seven shots and finished 11-for-38 from the field.
Allen said it was a disappointing performance from the trio.
“We pride ourselves on making our teammates better and allowing them to make us better,” Allen said.
Garnett and Pierce both scored 16 points and Allen had 11.
“They bumped us off spots and were more physical and aggressive all night,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Usually the winner is the team that was more aggressive.
“They had a no-layup rule and that’s why we made it to the line so much.”
McDyess led the Pistons’ balanced attack, going 8-of-14 — mostly long jumpers.
“He’s really comfortable right now,” Rivers said. “We have to get him out of his comfort zone.”
Richard Hamilton had 20 points, Rasheed Wallace scored 14 and Billups added 10.
Reserve Jason Maxiell filled in well when Wallace was in foul trouble by scoring 14 points and playing tough defense on Garnett, notably on a come-from-behind block on a dunk attempt.
“I thought he bodied him and didn’t give him anything easy,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.
Detroit scored the first 10 points of the game and started the second quarter with an 11-2 run, but led just 43-39 at halftime.
The Celtics stayed in the game by making 17 of 20 free throws in the first half while Detroit was 5-for-9.
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
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