Paul Pierce scored 22 points and Rajon Rondo added 14 assists for the Celtics.
Will Bynum scored 20 points, Tayshaun Prince had 16 and Charlie Villanueva 15 for the Pistons.
The big news for the Celtics coming into the game was O’Neal’s return after missing 27 games because of a sore right leg. But the former NBA MVP played less than 5½ minutes before leaving with a new injury, a strained right calf muscle.
O’Neal entered with 4:43 left in the first quarter to a big cheer from the crowd. He scored on Boston’s first two possessions and again later before grabbing a seat for the final play of the quarter.
Then, after returning for the start of the second, he lasted just 49 seconds more before limping off to the locker room accompanied by the medical staff. The team said he had a strained right calf — the previous injury was in his right Achilles tendon — and that he would be re-evaluated at halftime; at the break, a Celtics spokesman said he would not return.
It’s not clear how long the injury will sideline the 39-year-old center. The original injury was just supposed to keep him out a few games, but it stretched into two months.
The Pistons led by three points at the end of the first quarter and led 39-38 with 4:29 left in the second before Boston scored the next 11 points to take a double-digit lead. Detroit answered with a 9-0 run of its own to make it a one-point game, 49-48, at the half.
But Boston scored 13 straight points in the third quarter, starting with a 3-pointer and dunk by Pierce, and ending with Garnett’s dunk on a feed from Delonte West that made it 80-64.
NOTES: West tried an alley-oop in the second quarter, but he threw it too hard and it bounced off the backboard and through the net for a 3-pointer. … The Pistons have lost 50 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993-94 and ’94-95. They need two wins in their last six games to avoid last year’s total of 55 losses.