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Celtics and Pistons Square Off at the Palace

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Boston Celtics (27-12) at Detroit Pistons (14-26)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

7:30pm

TV: Comcast SportsNet; Radio: WEEI

Venue: The Palace of Auburn Hills

The Boston Celtics travel to Detroit for a Wednesday night bout with the Pistons at 7:30pm.

A trip away from Boston might actually be what the Celtics need right now, seeing as they've dropped their last three games at the TD Garden, including Monday night's 99-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

This marks the first meeting between these two teams this season, but more importantly, it marks Rasheed Wallace's return to Detroit, where he played the past six seasons (with one resulting in a championship) before coming to Boston via free agency last summer.

The Pistons are now a shell of the championship contender that consistently played a major role in the Eastern Conference throughout much of the last decade. After losing Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace, the Pistons tried to reload with guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva, but injuries have marred Detroit's season as much as, if not more so, then they have affected Boston's.

Richard Hamilton, a mainstay on those championship contending Detroit teams, has played in only 13 of a possible 40 games so far this season. Tayshaun Prince, also present for Detroit's reign, has been hampered even more than Hamilton, playing in only nine of a possible 40 games, thus far. And then there's Gordon, whose been limited by a groin injury, and has played in only 25 of the team's 40 games.

Both Prince and Gordon practiced yesterday, but will not play in tonight's game. Meanwhile, Hamilton, who's been battling the flu, is expected to play tonight. The Pistons are a tough team to predict right now, as the inconsistency with their lineups (due to injuries) is bound to translate to inconsistency on the court.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins

Pistons: Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Jonas Jerebko, Chris Wilcox, Ben Wallace

Health Check: For the Celtics, forward Kevin Garnett (knee) and guard/forward Marquis Daniels (thumb) are out.

For the Pistons, forward Tayshaun Prince (knee) and guard Ben Gordon (groin) are out, while guard Richard Hamilton (flu) is expected to play.

Keep It In Mind: The Pistons are only 10-9 at home this season, and have lost 14 of their past 17 games.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Paul Pierce scored 24 points on 9-17 shooting against the Mavericks on Monday.

For the Pistons, rookie Austin Daye scored 16 points on 7-14 shooting against the Knicks on Monday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Rasheed Wallace was 0-4 from three-point nation against the Mavericks.

For the Pistons, Rodney Stuckey scored 22 points against the Knicks, but shot a meager 8-26 to get there.

Key Matchup: Ray Allen vs. Richard Hamilton

Honorable Mention: Rajon Rondo vs. Rodney Stuckey

Skinny: With all the injuries Detroit has battled through, it's not surprising they've only managed a season average of 92.17 points per game, good for 29th in the league. Their scoring woes could be helped tonight if Hamilton does indeed return, but expect little offensive production from Detroit's front line, which features Ben Wallace (5.2 points per game), Chris Wilcox (4.7 points per game) and Jonas Jerebko (8.5 points per game).

While Detroit might struggle pumping the ball down low, they might have it equally difficult from behind the arc, as their season average from the nation as a team is only 29 percent. In addition to that, ball movement has not been Detroit's specialty, as they average only 17.32 assists per game.

As usual, the Celtics will have their hands full on the glass - especially Kendrick Perkins - as Detroit has a slew of players capable of grabbing double digit rebounds. If the C's can control the boards and limit their turnovers, they should be able to muscle out a victory over the Pistons. Keep an eye on Charlie Villanueva's performance against Boston's bench tonight.