BOSTON, MAY 30 -- For 1 minute 12 seconds late in the second half, the Detroit Pistons found themselves suspended in the Boston Garden's Twilight Zone.

They already had lost the momentum they had built in the third quarter when Vinnie Johnson and Adrian Dantley slammed heads going for a loose ball that would send Dantley to the hospital with a concussion and keep Johnson dazed the rest of the game.

But the 1:12 stretch that saw five rebounds sail over Detroit's outstretched hands and would end with Danny Ainge hitting a three-pointer with 3:06 left to break a tie and put the Celtics on top for good, 102-99, was what depressed the Pistons most.

After Boston's 117-114 victory in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference playoff series, Detroit's John Salley replayed the sequence in his mind -- the five missed Celtics shots -- and pronounced, "Home-court advantage bricks, I guess you could call them."

What happened at the end of those 72 seconds was only slightly less important to Boston's winning this series than Larry Bird's steal that led to a last-second Boston victory in Game 5 here last Tuesday.

The sequence began when Ainge missed a three-point jumper. A long rebound -- very long -- eventually wound up in Bird's hands. He missed a jumper. That, too, rebounded long. Bird wound up missing a three-point shot.

Not to worry. Robert Parish grabbed the ball, but then missed a two-foot shot. The ball clanged off the rim and went over two Pistons into the hands of Kevin McHale. He missed. Long, long rebound, out to about second base. Bird grabbed the ball and whipped it to Ainge in the left corner.

"I'm thinking, 'Oh, my God, they've got to hit one eventually,' " Detroit's Dennis Rodman remembered thinking to himself.

Absolutely right. Ainge's three-point shot drew nothing but net. If Detroit had been able to grab a single one of those rebounds, the game would still have been tied at 99 and the Pistons would have had the ball. Instead, Boston went ahead, 102-99, and never trailed again.

"I feel bad for Adrian because I know how much he wanted to be a participant down the stretch," teammate Bill Laimbeer said. "I feel so much for him . . . We missed him, but we still had guys who were capable of compensating for A.D.'s absence. It was that three-point thing that got us. We never could get the lead from that point on. That really did it."

Salley agreed. "Brick, brick, brick, brick, three-pointer," he said. "A two-pointer, it wouldn't have been as bad. But the three-pointer just hurts you, just knocks you down."

Rodman, who nearly grabbed a couple of those rebounds, was so furious the words just tumbled from him. "That damn three-pointer killed us," he shouted. "The game was going back and forth {15 lead changes in the second half}. But that three-point shot killed us. That was the blow. We never could get over the hump again after that.

"If we just could have been able to stop them that one time," Rodman said wistfully. "The ball was just going out so long, though. We blocked out and went aggressively for the ball. Once, I was at the top of my jump {about 40 inches in Rodman's case} and the ball just went over my fingertips. A couple of times, we even got a hand on the ball and couldn't hold it. But, yep, that was the damn game, right there."

But Boston's home-court advantage and the injury to Dantley were also high on the list of the factors that did in the Pistons in their effort to advance to the NBA final for the first time in the club's history.

Salley noted the team's loss of momentum when Dantley was carried off on a stretcher with eight seconds left in the third qaurter.

"A.D. and Vinnie have been our two leading scorers down the stretch in these playoff games," Salley said. Indeed, Dantley had led the Pistons in the playoffs with 24 points per game, and Johnson had been coming off the bench to score 19 more. "That took a lot out of us," Salley said. "We couldn't get rolling like we usually do in the fourth quarter, with Vinnie hot outside and A.D. doing it inside."

Laimbeer grew tired of replaying the 72-second period and Dantley's injury, concluding that neither of those things would have occurred had the Pistons not been in Boston in the first place.

"This showed us the importance of the home-court advantage," he said. "Next year, we're going to play every game like it's our last to assure we have the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs."