Elsa, Getty Images
Boston's Paul Pierce drives against Antonio McDyess of the Pistons for for 2 of his 22 points on Tuesday night.

BOSTON — The rest led to rust.

The Pistons did their best to shake it off, but it lingered, and against a Boston Celtics team that has been perfect at home (9-0) throughout the playoffs, it was too much to overcome.

Boston stormed back in the second half Tuesday night and held for an 88-79 win over the Pistons in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tayshaun Prince led Detroit with 16 points, Antonio McDyess scored 14 and Richard Hamilton had 15. Kevin Garnett led all scorers with 26 points, and Paul Pierce continued his offensive barnstorming with 22.

The Celtics took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter, and the Pistons finally got within striking distance thanks to rookie Rodney Stuckey's 3-pointer with 5:49 left that trimmed Boston's lead to 75-69.

Chauncey Billups' jumper that rattled in with 4:12 left made it a two-possession game.

And that's where the Pistons desperate comeback attempt fizzled.

A Pierce jumper here, a Rajon Rondo basket there, and the Celtics were on their way.

So much for making a statement.

The Pistons said — and, it seemed, did — all the right things leading up to Game 1.

They said their weeklong break between games could only help, that their edge never left after the Orlando series, that their legs would be fresh, their starting point guard would be ready to contribute.

But Billups wasn't himself and hesitated to attack a mismatch off the dribble, let alone attack the basket.

Their edge wasn't there from the start, as the Pistons allowed 8-0 runs at the beginning and end of the first quarter. Their legs might have been fresh, but it did little good when the offense was stagnant .

Defensively, the Pistons had no answer for Pierce, who followed up a performance of a lifetime in Game 7 against Cleveland with another well-rounded showing. There basically was an open lane for him to the basket, and Pierce took it every time. If Pierce wasn't scoring off the dribble, he was passing to teammates who would.

McDyess — and in the second half, Hamilton — were thorough on the offensive end.

But as a whole, the Pistons strung together some inconsistent basketball entering the fourth quarter.

While they failed to set the tone early, the Pistons did find themselves in excellent position to seize control when Boston exceeded the foul limit and Detroit was put into the bonus with 7:23 left in the first half.

Initially, the Pistons attacked the Celtics every chance they got. Rasheed Wallace, who wore full-length tights, went right at defensive player of the year Kevin Garnett, backing him in the post and jab-stepping him on the perimeter, forcing Garnett into two quick fouls. Wallace, meanwhile, scored six straight Pistons' points.

Then Prince got into it, draining a trey that beat the shot clock, then a short hook in the lane to give the Pistons a 39-34 lead with 3:25 left in the half.

But that was the last field goal the Pistons would make the rest of the half.

The offense again went stagnant, and it managed just one more point — a free throw by Billups — before halftime, as the Celtics used a 7-1 run to head into intermission ahead, 41-40.

The Pistons had every chance to take control of the game at the start of the second half, but aside from Hamilton (10 points in the third), the rest of the Pistons couldn't get in rhythm in the quarter.

Pierce scored nine in the third and Garnett eight to help the Celtics take a commanding 69-57 lead into the fourth.