AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Flip Saunders winced as he described the way his Detroit Pistons are playing.
"I usually go to the dentist once a year," the Pistons coach said after Saturday's 81-73 victory over Boston. "This is like having a root canal every night."
Richard Hamilton scored 22 points and the Pistons ended an embarrassing two-game losing streak by beating the short-handed Celtics.
"It wasn't easy, but at least we won the game," Hamilton said. "We kept letting them back into it, but we got it at the end."
The Pistons were coming off losses to Charlotte and Atlanta -- a combined 22-46 this season -- but bounced back to hand Boston its fourth loss in a row.
"We're struggling, and all our guys know that," Saunders said. "Tonight, the effort was there, and that's what has been missing. We just need to find a flow again and just start playing."
Boston dressed only nine players -- three under the limit -- and only one of them was born before 1981.
"I was really happy with the effort, given all the guys that were out," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "With young players -- and that's all we have -- all the little mistakes they make add up by the end of the game. Defensive mistakes probably cost us 12 points."
"We're asking them to learn fast, and they're trying so hard," Rivers said. "I'm not happy, but I understand the predicament that we are in."
Flip Murray, replacing Billups in the starting lineup, added 21 points, including two open 3-pointers in the final minutes.
"We figured that if he hits those shots, we'll live with it," Rivers said. "With Chauncey, you can't take that gamble."
Gerald Green led the Celtics with a career-high 24 points, but committed a costly flagrant foul in the fourth quarter. Ryan Gomes scored 17, while Al Jefferson added 12 points and a career-high 22 rebounds.
"We're satisfied with the way we played, but you still want to win," Gomes said. "That's a veteran team, and they executed at the end, while we were rushing things. That's the difference between the two teams."
The Pistons struggled to take control in the first half, but eventually built a 49-43 edge at the intermission. Hamilton had 13 points for Detroit, while Green had 13 for the Celtics.
Detroit maintained the advantage for most of the third quarter, but Boston finished it with a 6-0 run to send the game into the fourth tied at 60.
The Pistons came out quickly in the final period, opening with a 12-4 run. The final two points came on a pair of free throws by Prince after he was clotheslined by Green on a drive to the basket.
Boston rallied again, pulling within 72-70 on Jefferson's basket with 3:52 left, but Murray clinched the game with back-to-back 3-pointers at the other end.
"I had gotten a lot of wide-open looks," Murray said. "A couple down the stretch just went down."
- The Pistons hope to have Billups back by midweek, while Brian Scalabrine (knee), Wally Szczerbiak (ankle) and Delonte West (back) are all listed as day-to-day for Boston.
- Only one of Boston's five starters -- Gomes -- played college basketball.
- Detroit is now 3-4 since Billups' injury.