AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Boston didn't get the memo.

Gate crashers! Party poopers!

According to the prepared script, Saturday was supposedly Detroit's night — one of those rare opportunities for the city to bask in the envious tears of the rest of the country at the wealth of athletic riches here.

The Red Wings rocked.

The Tigers rolled.

The Lions didn't play.

And the Pistons ... well, let's just say they didn't follow the appreciative pattern established by their brethren.

The Pistons lost home court advantage barely 48 hours after they claimed it, after giving Boston its first home loss of the playoffs.

This Eastern Conference finals series still resembles a seven-gamer following the Celtics' 94-80 victory Saturday night — their first road playoff victory.

The frustration stems from the 180-degree turn the Pistons took since Thursday. Their Game 2 win at Boston was probably their best playoff performance since Game 6 of the 2005 NBA Finals at San Antonio.

And they followed it up with one of their worst.

This is where the anger settles and the doubt creeps in, because each time you believe the Pistons have finally tossed aside their split personality, they hock up a disgusting loogie like this.

The Celtics wanted this one more. They controlled the offensive glass. They willed themselves to every loose ball.

The Pistons had six players who scored in double figures in Game 2, but it was the Celtics with a half-dozen scorers in double digits in Game 3.

They exhibited the championship hunger, playing like a team that understands that titles aren't given — they're taken.

Here's a suggestion?

Put the Pistons back on the road for Game 4 on Monday.

They didn't dog it Saturday. They weren't lazy. But they fell into that familiar trap of giving the home folks a show that matched the electricity of their support. Making the extra pass, constantly forcing the defense to move laterally might sound boring as opposed to counting on the one-on-one isolation.

All it does is win more games.

But the Pistons are a better team when challenged. They encompass a business attitude when away from home. They maintain a sharper focus.

The lone enthusiastic cheers from the Palace crowd came from those with Internet connections on their cell phones, getting updates on the Wings' Stanley Cup finals opener and the Tigers game at Comerica Park.

The Celtics are too good to not win one playoff road game. It was inevitable. But it was the worst possible timing for the Pistons.

They didn't even rely on their Big Three in the first half. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were responsible for only 18 of Boston's 50 first-half points.

The Celtics' incredible one-year transformation from lottery pick in 2007 to NBA finalist in 2008 came down to these next two games at the Palace. There was no alternative but to win one of them and wresting the home-court advantage away from the Pistons after losing it Thursday.

This loss will provide the Flip Saunders Bashing Society with the opening minutes for their next meeting, but it's too easy, blaming the coach for this one.

It really isn't his fault this time.

The Pistons relaxed because they thought they carved the heart out of the Celtics with their 103-97 victory in Game 2. But if the players watched a little more closely after Game 2, they would have witnessed a more confident Boston team because Allen, the third wheel in the aforementioned Boston Three Party, emerged from the competitive dead in the fourth quarter in Game 1.

It doesn't necessarily help Flip's reputation that he's gotten the better of Doc Rivers through the first three games of these Eastern Conference finals.

But it's time to give Saunders his due.

Nobody's suggesting he's the incarnation of Red Auerbach, but he deserves credit — to this point, anyway — of achieving maximum value from his roster.

But there's more confidence now that Saunders can strike the right chord with his players as they seek a correction, trailing once again in an Eastern Conference final that easily could have been theirs Saturday with a stronger effort.