BOSTON — Rajon Rondo  scored a career-high 35 points, but only four of those came in the fourth quarter, when the Pistons built a 13-point lead the Celtics  couldn’t erase in a 98-88 defeat — their third loss in four games.
Rondo’s 35 points came on 15-of-27 field goals and came with six assists and five rebounds as the C’s drop to 15-13. While Kevin Garnett  (hip) missed his first game of the season, Paul Pierce  and Ray Allen  didn’t show up either, combining for just 20 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Where’s the Truth: Thrown off by Bill Russell ‘s presence courtside or just plain having an off night, Pierce looked as though his mind was elsewhere. He finished just 3-of-11 from the field, and while he didn’t record a turnover in 37 minutes, he seemed to juggle the ball each time he touched it and generally be a step behind in the early going.
JO vs. Monroe: Returning from a two-game absence, Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal  (knee) appeared overmatched at times by the younger, left-handed Greg Monroe (22 points, 11-14 FG, 9 rebounds). Of course, it didn’t help that O’Neal picked up five fouls in his first 18 minutes on the floor.
What the Stuckey? As Rondo’s point total increased, lost in the shuffle was Rodney Stuckey, who totaled 25 points (including 11-11 FT), four assists and three rebounds. He led four Pistons in double figures and helped keep Detroit in a game they had no business hanging around for three quarters, let alone pulling away in the fourth quarter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo from the get-go: After almost every basket he scored in the first quarter, Rondo shot a look to the Celtics bench. Let’s just say he eyed the bench quite a bit. The point guard finished with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go along with a pair of assists in the opening 12 minutes. His effort helped stake the Celtics to a 28-26 lead at the first break when most of his teammates started slowly.
Forward momentum: With Kevin Garnett sidelined this time, replacements Chris Wilcox  (17 points, 9 rebounds) in the starting lineup and JaJuan Johnson  (10 points, 5 rebounds) off the bench once again ate up minutes in the middle with a degree of effectiveness. The two athletic bigs also provide Rondo with a running mate on the fast break, where the Celtics owned a 18-14 advantage.
Lining them up: Is there any truth to the rumor Doc Rivers  read Wednesday morning’s Irish Coffee ? By halftime, Ray Allen had already attempted a season-high nine free throws (making 8) and the Celtics as a team had exceeded their season average (19.8) with 21 by the break. Of course, making their foul shots was a different issue entirely, as they finished 19-of-32 from the line. Outside of Allen, the rest of the team went 11-of-23.